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The 10 most effective types of psychological therapy

The 10 most effective types of psychological therapy

April 30, 2024

There are a large number of psychological therapies that can help people overcome their psychological problems. While some therapists only use one approach, others may use a mixture of different psychological treatments to meet the needs of their patients.

However, despite the diversity of therapeutic offers, Not all forms of psychotherapy have proven to be equally effective ; some have much more empirical evidence in their favor, drawn from years of research on the effects they have on patients.

Not all psychotherapies are the same

The great majority of the population associates the figure of the psychologist with a person who points out in a notebook everything a patient tells him while he is sitting on a couch. But nevertheless, psychotherapy is not just listening to a person and giving advice . A psychotherapist is a mental health professional with a solid theoretical and practical background, and is specialized in the cognitive (thought), affective (emotions) and behavioral (behavior) areas.


This means that psychotherapy is not simply "an art" based on the sensitivity and empathy of the psychologist and the therapeutic link he creates with the other person. The effectiveness of the treatment depends, to a large extent, on the knowledge and technical skills of that professional, as well as on the type of therapy applied.

  • Related article: "Types of psychological therapies"

The most effective types of psychotherapy

In the world of psychology many theories and perspectives of therapeutic application coexist. In this article you can see the most effective types of psychotherapy , taking into account that efficacy has to do with the usefulness of each of them when it comes to treating specific disorders: there are no therapies that work for everything.


1. Behavioral Cognitive Therapy

Behavioral Cognitive Therapy is one of the most used psychological therapies today. This therapeutic model belongs to what is known as the second generation of behavioral therapies, and is characterized because it considers that abnormal patterns of behavior have their origin in the existence of a series of Distorted and dysfunctional thinking processes and schemes , that together with the learned behavior patterns cause great suffering to the patient.

Specifically, from this proposal it is understood that to generate therapeutic changes it is necessary to intervene both in the observable habits and routines and in the thought schemes that shape our way of interpreting things and setting objectives.

So, the goal of this type of therapy is to change beliefs, dysfunctional thoughts and habits with a series of cognitive and behavioral techniques. For example, training in social skills, expository techniques, modeling or cognitive restructuring, among others.


  • Related article: "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?"

2. Cognitive Therapy Based on Mindfulness

If I said earlier that cognitive behavioral therapy belonged to the group of therapies called second generation, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is considered a third-generation therapy. These therapies focus on the dialogue and the functional context of the person, and seek acceptance and non-judgmental attitude as a way to improve the emotional health of people.

The MBCT was developed by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale, as an eight-week program for the prevention of relapse in patients with depression, emotional stress and anxiety. It combines meditation and mindfulness exercises with the learning of cognitive therapy skills, such as the detection and interruption of maladaptive thinking patterns that lead to depression or anxiety.

  • Related article: "Cognitive Therapy based on Mindfulness: what is it?"

3. Dialectic Behavioral Therapy

This psychotherapeutic approach belongs to the category of Behavioral Cognitive Therapies and was designed specifically to intervene in cases of Borderline Personality Disorder , in whose treatment has been shown very effective. It combines elements of Mindfulness with the tools of cognitive-behavioral psychology (on which most of this proposal is based) and anxiety management strategies.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Personality Disorder (BPD): Causes, Symptoms and Treatment"

4. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

The therapy of acceptance and commitment also belongs to the third generation therapy, and aims to create a full and meaningful life for the patient, accepting the pain as something normal. It has its origin in the Theory of the Relational Framework (RFT) and pay close attention to language and cognition.

Therefore, he understands language as something that has a positive potential for the human being, but it can also create a lot of suffering. It focuses on self-discovery and the clarification of values ​​as essential elements when it comes to therapy. Likewise, what is socially or culturally accepted is questioned, because it causes the patient an attempt to control his private events and causes him great suffering.

  • Related article: "Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): principles and characteristics"

5. Systemic therapy

Systemic therapy is used mainly for family and couple problems (although also in individuals), because it is a more holistic and integrative approach, which takes into account the relationships between the members of a group. Therefore, a systemic therapist can work with several family members at the same time or with a partner, although it can also intervene only in one person, although the therapy will continue to focus on the field of personal interactions.

The therapy focuses on relationships within the family and the couple, and observes how they interact and what their relational styles and communication patterns are, taking into account the different systems that make up their context. In addition, it is based on the constructivist current, which means that it puts a lot of emphasis on the way in which meaning is constructed from personal experiences.

  • To deepen: "Systemic therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?"

6. Brief Therapy

The brief therapy emerged thanks to systemic therapy in the 70s. It was at that time when the latter began to be applied to treat a single individual , without the whole family present. This form of therapy is a short, simple, but effective model that allows people to empower themselves in the face of change thanks to a series of procedures and techniques. The idea is not to spend a few efforts and time on something that could have a faster solution.

7. Interpersonal psychotherapy

Interpersonal psychotherapy is a therapeutic model devised by Klerman, Weissman and collaborators, and is based on the critical analysis of the social elements that influence the development of psychopathologies. It works on the connections between symptoms and current interpersonal problems, such as problems in relationships.

The focus of this form of therapy is on current social relationships and how expectations within these relationships may be causing pathological symptoms in a patient. The treatment involves solving relationship problems or find new relationships or activities as compensation.

It has been especially effective when intervening on cases of bulimia and binge eating disorder, as well as in major depression. A variant of this, called Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy, is used to treat patients with Bipolar Disorder.

8. Biofeedback

Technically, biofeedback is not so much a form of psychotherapy as a tool used in psychotherapy and that, moreover, it has a wider use. In any case, it is one of the most valuable resources that psychologists can use when intervening in certain problems.

Its application is relatively simple: it consists of making the person aware, in real time, of the psychological or physiological processes that are taking place in his body. That is to say, a perception - reaction - perception loop is created that makes it easier for the person to adjust their behavior (in part, involuntarily) to what is desirable, to get back in balance.

Biofeedback has been especially effective in treating cases of chronic pain.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Biofeedback: what is it and what is it for?"

9. Training in relaxation techniques

In many cases, a good part of the usefulness of psychotherapy depends on the way in which the person learns to manage their emotions and to regulate their physiological state. In this sense, the training through relaxation techniques is very versatile , since it can be applied in cases of chronic pain, phobias and many kinds of Anxiety Disorders.

On the other hand, we must bear in mind that anxiety problems are very frequent and that they are easily able to contribute to the appearance of other alterations of mental health . Thus, this therapeutic tool can be used to prevent various situations that would erode well-being

To know more about this therapeutic option, you can read the following article: "6 easy relaxation techniques to combat stress".

10. Reminiscence therapy

This type of psychotherapy is widely used to treat cases of dementia and neurodegenerative diseases that affect memory and are in the initial stages. For example, It is very effective in patients with Alzheimer's disease , since it helps to curb the symptoms (in the sense that it slows down their progress).

Its role is to consolidate self-concept and reinforce mental processes linked to the sensation of self-identity, stimulate language and improve self-esteem.


Getting Help - Psychotherapy: Crash Course Psychology #35 (April 2024).


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