How to choose the most adequate type of therapy?
While there is no “one size fits all” treatment for improving mental health and wellbeing, there is a plethora of options available. With so many options, it can feel overwhelming to commit to a specific kind of therapy.
When I first made the decision to look for therapy, I was overwhelmed to learn that there are over 400 different models of psychotherapy in the west today, with the proponents of each model competing with the others and laying claim to primacy.
Can you imagine having 400 different schools of physics or mathematics? We already know a big deal about our brain functioning but it seems that in terms of helping people with mental health the consensus is yet to come.
When we look for therapy, it is because we are feeling down, exhausted, fearful about the future… and hopeful that someone, finally, is going to help us make sense of our feelings and behaviours.
For most of us, this will be the first time we will ever share our innermost thoughts and experiences with another, outside of our immediate family or friends. Indeed, it may be the first time we share anything about ourselves at all.
But, for a start, we are faced with the dilemma of choosing the type of therapy most suitable for our needs. It is the last thing you want to do right now – to meticulously analyse all the different types of therapy around.
In this article am going to try, very succinctly, summarize the main types of therapy to help you make an informed decision.
There are many different types of therapy and therapists may be trained in one single approach or use techniques from different methods if they think these would help. Keep in mind that many therapists use a combination of techniques from different types of therapy. It’s also perfectly normal to try one approach, find that it doesn’t work for you, and try a different type.
Ultimately, the choice is yours.
It is, however, a good idea to spend some time checking what would be the best option for you and for the problems you are facing. The therapist should offer an introductory session for you to discuss how they work and ask all the questions you have in your mind.
Remember, it’s OK to change therapist or therapy type if one isn’t working for you. Keep trying until you find someone who feels right to you.
Common factors to most therapeutic approaches
The first thing I would like you to know when choosing a type of therapy is that different forms of therapy can lead to comparable outcomes through different processes – there is good evidence to support the assertion that certain common factors of several different psychotherapies are beneficial to the healing process across different disorders and treatments.
The common factors to all therapies include:
A good relationship with the therapist
A client and a therapist first have to create a basic bond to work together. It is important for you to have a chat with the therapist before starting therapy, where you can ask about the therapist’s training, their experience working with people who have similar backgrounds to yours or experiencing the same type of problem, and what you can expect from therapy.
Notice how you feel during this conversation. Ask all the questions you have in mind (better still, write down the questions that come up before the session).
It’s crucial for you to feel OK expressing yourself freely and honestly, so you need to trust the therapist and the process. Is the therapist emphatic? Is the therapist genuine?
Will you feel supported, accepted and celebrated for what you are?
The rational of the treatment
To be able to trust the process, it is important for you to understand how the treatment works and check if the treatment is credible for you.
Are you interested in science-based approaches or are you attracted to a more spiritual environment?
After the introductory session (generally a free session) do you agree the way the therapist works is adequate, effective and sustainable?
It is important that you belief on the efficacy of the treatment.
Agreement about goals and tasks of the therapy
Are you and the therapist on the same page? The therapist and yourself should have clear goals for the therapy and agreed on the ways to get there. So, you want a therapist that explains to you their approach and the rational behind it.
Are you going to therapy because you choose so or are you doing it to please someone else? Do not spend you time and money if you feel you have nothing to work on.
What are your expectations to therapy? Hoppe is, in fact, a huge factor to the success of therapy. How optimistic are you that you will improve and change as a result of therapy?
What type of therapy do you have available?
Specifics of some types of therapy
However, similarly, there are good evidence that some treatments differ meaningfully from others, and that certain specific elements of some treatments may be viewed as unique contributions from particular forms of therapy.
As you research for a potential type of therapy and therapist, keep a few things in mind:
- What issues do you want to address?
- Are there any specific traits you’d like in a therapist? For example, are you more comfortable with someone who shares your gender?
- How much can you realistically afford to spend per session? Do you want someone who offers sliding-scale prices or payment plans?
- Check on the time, place and duration of your sessions. Where will therapy fit into your schedule?
- Do you need a therapist who can see you on a specific day of the week? Or someone who has nighttime sessions?
Go for the type of therapy that best suits your personality and the problems you want to work on.
Here is a summary of the most well-known and widespread therapeutic approaches
If you want to learn more about our approach to therapy, check it here.
This video from “Self-help Toons” will help you to understand the debate between common factors and specifics of therapies. Enjoy.