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Types of psychological therapies

Types of psychological therapies

November 24, 2022

Most people who have not studied the Degree in Psychology, when they hear the word psychotherapy The first thing they imagine is a patient lying on the couch and an older man (the therapist) with a notebook pointing at what he tells him.

There is a great ignorance in the population about psychology and psychotherapy. Many do not know the difference between a psychologist, a psychoanalyst and a psychiatrist, or the difference between a psychologist and a coach, and they do not know the different types of therapi to that exist.

What types of mental health professionals are there?

Regarding this last point, the problem arises when they decide to go to psychological therapy and meet with the different professional categories: psychoanalytic therapist, cognitive-behavioral therapist, systemic therapist... then they ask themselves: "What is that?"


In the world of psychological therapy There are different theoretical and practical perspectives that treat problems differently . For those who would like to know what types of psychotherapy exist, in this article we collect and explain the different psychotherapeutic approaches.

The benefits of going to psychological therapy

Patients go to psychological therapy for different reasons. But it is not easy to make the decision to attend the consultation of a therapist.

Unfortunately, there are still prejudices regarding this practice , especially because of the false beliefs about what psychotherapy is and to whom it is addressed. In addition, many individuals think that going to the psychologist is synonymous with being a weak person, although going to psychological therapy helps to be a stronger emotionally and provides tools for a better adaptation to the complicated situations that may appear on a day to day basis.


In summary, psychological therapy brings these benefits :

  • Improves well-being and helps you feel better
  • Provides tools for better conflict management
  • Help change limiting beliefs
  • It allows to live in harmony
  • The sessions are confidential, so you can tell the secrets
  • The psychologist will provide support and is a person who can be trusted
  • Advise a qualified professional
  • Empowering against life
  • Help to get to know each other better
  • If you are curious to know more about the psychological benefits that psychotherapy provides, You can read the following article or : "The 8 benefits of going to psychological therapy"

The reasons why to go to psychological therapy

Psychotherapy is effective to overcome many psychological problems and to improve well-being. Despite the many studies that support its effectiveness, there are people who, even needing help, are not aware that they have the problem or avoid facing reality.


The following list shows some signs that may indicate that it is time to go to the psychologist :

  • Nothing you've done so far seems to work
  • Your friends or family are already tired of listening
  • You start to abuse substances to alleviate negative symptoms
  • Your acquaintances are worried about you
  • Do not stop thinking about the negative
  • You feel an aggressiveness that you can not control and you think that everyone is against
  • It's hard to sleep
  • You do not enjoy things the same and nothing motivates you
  • You can continue reading about the reasons why go to psychotherapy in this article: "The 8 reasons why you should go to the psychologist"

Types of psychological therapy

If you have never attended psychological therapy, the experience can be a bit mysterious at first and even intimidating. Since there are different types of psychotherapy with different ways of solving problems, below we explain the approaches or psychotherapeutic models that exist n .

Psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapy

The psychoanalytic therapy has its origin in the theoretical model proposed by Sigmund Freud , father of psychoanalysis. His theory explains the behavior of human beings and is based on the analysis of the unconscious conflicts that originate in childhood. To understand dysfunctional thoughts, psychoanalysis emphasizes the instinctual impulses that are repressed by consciousness and remain in the unconscious affecting the subject.

The psychoanalyst is responsible for bringing out unconscious conflicts through the interpretation of dreams, failed acts and free association . The "free association" has to do with emotional catharsis, and is a technique that aims to express the patient, in psychotherapeutic sessions, all their ideas, emotions, thoughts and images as they are presented, without repressing them.Once the patient has expressed himself, the psychoanalyst must determine what factors, within those manifestations, reflect an unconscious conflict.

This model of psychotherapy also focuses on the defense mechanisms , which are incorrect ways of solving the psychological conflict and can lead to disturbances in the mind and behavior, and in the most extreme cases to the somatization of the psychological conflict and the physical dysfunctions that express it.

If you want know more about psychoanalysis , we recommend the following readings:

  • "Sigmund Freud: life and work of the famous psychoanalyst"
  • "Defense mechanisms: 10 ways of not facing reality"
  • "The Theory of the Unconscious of Sigmund Freud"

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

The psychodynamic therapy follow the line that picks up psychoanalytic thinking of postmodernity . Therefore, it derives from psychoanalysis, albeit with a shorter brevity, through the focus of the intervention in certain conflicts highlighted in the current condition of the patient.

Since it leaves behind the classical vision, it collects contributions such as the analytical approach of the self or the object relations of the Kleiniana current. In addition to the contribution of Melanie Klein, other psychologists such as Adler or Ackerman have participated in the development of psychodynamic therapy.

For the practice of this form of therapy, changes have been proposed in the ways of carrying the therapy, however, the objective remains the same: help the client get "insight" about his reasons and hidden conflicts . Currently, psychodynamic therapies coexist with psychoanalytic therapies, the latter continue to focus on Freud's vision and are called "psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapies".

The clearer differences between the two orientations They may be:

  • In psychodynamic therapy the typical weekly frequency of the sessions is 1 or 2 , whereas in psychoanalytic therapy it is 3 or 4.
  • The therapist assumes an active and direct position in psychodynamic therapy. In the psychoanalytic orientation it is a neutral and non-intrusive approach.
  • The psychodynamic therapist advises and reinforces nonconflicting aspects of the subject . The psychoanalytic therapist avoids giving advice and limits his interventions to interpretations.
  • In the psychodynamic approach, a wide range of interventions including interpretive, educational and support techniques. The psychoanalytic approach emphasizes free association, interpretation and analysis of dreams.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

From the cognitive-behavioral perspective It is understood that thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect feelings and emotions and behavior. Therefore, this form of therapy combines different methods derived from cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. That is, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) consists of a series of techniques that focus on teaching the patient a series of skills to better deal with different problems .

CBT is based on the idea that what we think about different situations affects the way we feel and behave. For example, if we interpret a situation in a negative way we will experience negative emotions as a result, and that will cause us to behave in a non-adaptive way. It is the treatment par excellence for anxiety disorders such as phobias, it is understood that. In this case, a traumatic situation causes analogous situations to be interpreted as threatening. This causes the patient to avoid exposing himself to these situations due to the intense and irrational fear he feels.

In the CBT the patient works with the therapist to identify and change dysfunctional thought patterns . To identify the problem, the therapist performs what is known as functional analysis of behavior. The functional analysis of the behavior tries to find out the factors responsible for the production or maintenance of the behaviors qualified as maladaptive and the relationship of contingencies established between them.

Once the problem is detected and analyzed, different cognitive-behavioral techniques are used, such as social skills training, expository techniques, problem-solving techniques, cognitive restructuring, etc.

Humanistic therapy

The humanistic psychology it is considered third wave of psychology, contemplating the cognitive-behavioral and psychoanalytic perspectives as the two predominant forces prior to the humanist. This emerged in the mid-twentieth century, through the proposals and work of Abraham Maslow Y Carl Rogers , mainly.

It is strongly influenced by phenomenology and existentialism. From the first, the fact that we are never able to experience "reality in itself" directly, while the opposite is true with those subjective aspects of which we are aware, is highlighted. The legitimate sources of knowledge are the intellectual and emotional experience.From existentialism, this form of therapy reflects the reflection on human existence itself.

Therefore, from this humanist perspective the individual is a conscious, intentional being, in constant development , whose mental representations and subjective states are a valid source of knowledge about oneself. The patient is seen as the main principal actor in his existential search. This search forces you to go through a series of stages or subjective states in which you ask the "why" of what happens to you, the meaning of what you are living, and what you can do to improve your situation.

The humanist therapist has a secondary role as a facilitator of the process, allowing the subject to find the answers that he / she seeks alone. One of the key concepts of this type of therapy is the self-realization of the human being .

The Maslow Pyramid and the self-realization of the human being

Maslow was the author of the Maslow's pyramid , which is a psychological theory that explains human motivation . According to Abraham Maslow, our actions are motivated to cover certain needs. That is, there is a hierarchy of human needs, and argues that as the most basic needs are met, human beings develop higher needs and desires. In the upper part of the pyramid are the needs for self-realization.

  • To learn more about Abraham Maslow's theory, you can read this article: "Maslow's Pyramid: the hierarchy of human needs"

Carl Rogers and Person Centered Therapy

Another famous humanist psychologist, Carl Rogers , developed what is known as person-centered therapy , whose objective is to allow the patient (whom Rogers prefers to call a client) to have control of his own therapy.

Person-centered therapy allows the client to enter into a process of becoming aware of the real experience and restructuring of their self , through the establishment of a solid therapeutic alliance with the therapist and listening to the deep meanings of his own experience.

To achieve this, the therapist is:

  • Authentic / congruent . The therapist is honest with himself and with the client.
  • Empathic . The therapist is placed on the same level as the client, understanding him not so much as a psychologist but as a person he can trust. The therapist is able to put himself in the place of the other, and through active listening he shows that he understands the client.
  • M Our unconditional positive consideration . The therapist respects the client as a human being and does not judge him.

Gestalt therapy

The Gestalt therapy was developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman in the 1940s, and it's a kind of humanistic therapy , because it conceives the human being, its goals and its range of needs and potentialities. Therefore, from this position it is understood that the mind is a self-regulating and holistic unit, and is based on the basic principle of Gestalt Psychology that "the whole is more than the sum of the parts".

Gestalt therapists they use experiential and creative techniques to improve self-consciousness, freedom and self-direction of the patient . This is a therapeutic model that not only has its roots in Gestalt Psychology, but is also influenced by psychoanalysis, the analysis of Reich's character, existential philosophy, Oriental religion, phenomenology and Moreno's psychodrama.

For many, Gestalt therapy is more than a therapeutic model, it is an authentic philosophy of life, which contributes positively in the way of perceiving the relations with the world on the part of the individual. The present moment and the self-awareness of the emotional and corporal experience are of great importance, and the individual is seen from a holistic and unifying perspective, integrating at the same time, its sensorial, affective, intellectual, social and spiritual dimensions. That is, he understands this in his global experience.

Therapy sessions revolve around "insight" regarding the patient's experiences, and they encourage him to explore creatively the way to find his own satisfaction in the different areas of his life , and in this way, the patient can live and experience the new solutions. This is a more educational approach than a medical one. The therapist is not directive, that is, does not tell the patient what to do, but uses the educational capacity of the dialogue and is more concerned with the bond of trust with it, with the aim of increasing the authenticity of the relationship for allow the patient to explore the experience in its entirety.

Systemic therapy

Systemic therapy takes into account the representation of reality seen from a holistic and integrating perspective , where the important thing is the relationships and the components that arise from them. In the therapeutic sessions, relationship and communication is very important in any group that interacts and that affects the patient (or patients), understood as a system .

It is applied in the treatment of conceptualized disorders as the expression of the alterations in the interactions, relational styles and communicational patterns of a group, such as couples or families, but also to individual people, taking into account the different systems that make up its context .

It has a focus on solving problems more practical than analytical. It is not so important who has the problem (for example, who is aggressive), but rather focuses on identifying dysfunctional patterns within the behavior of the group of people , in order to redirect those patterns directly. That is, it is about systems finding balance.

Brief therapy (or brief systemic therapy)

The brief therapy it develops from systemic therapy. since at the beginning of the 70s it was suggested that the systemic model could be applied to a single individual even if the whole family did not attend. This it supposed the birth of the short therapy of the MRI of Palo Alto , which is a set of procedures and intervention techniques that aim to help individuals, couples, families or groups to mobilize their resources to achieve their objectives in the shortest possible time.

Brief therapy has generated a radical change in psychotherapy, by developing a brief, simple, effective and effective model to help people produce change.

Other types of psychotherapy

The models of psychotherapy proposed so far are the best known and applied for psychological treatment. But they are not the only ones, because there are other forms of psychological therapy that have recently emerged and others that have evolved from previous ones.

For example, narrative therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, cognitive-social therapy, hypnotic therapy, etc.

Bonus: Mindfulness Therapy

A model of psychotherapy that is rigorously topical and has generated great interest in scientific circles is Mindfulness Therapy. This includes concepts of Buddhist philosophy and of the Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and is located within what is known as the third generation or the third wave of psychological therapies.

The goal of Mindfulness is that the participants acquire a state of consciousness and calmness that helps them self-regulate their behavior and get to know each other better . In addition to accepting oneself as it is and being in the present. But more than a set of techniques to be in the present moment, it is an attitude towards life. It is a coping style that drives personal strengths.

The Mindfulness Provides patients with a method to learn how to manage emotions, reactions, attitudes and thoughts so that they can face the situations that arise in their life, through the practice and perfection of mindfulness. With progress through the practice of full consciousness in the present moment and with an attitude of compassion towards oneself, certain positive attitudes are developed in relation to mental state and emotions, coming to control them from freedom, knowledge in oneself and acceptance.

Bibliographic references:

  • Ackerman, N. (1970). Theory and practice of family therapy. Buenos Aires: Proteo.
  • Haley, J. (1974). Treatment of the family. Barcelona: Toray.
  • McNamee, S. and Gergen, K.J. (nineteen ninety six). Therapy as social construction. Barcelona: Paidós.
  • O'Hanlon, W.H. (1989). Deep roots. Basic principles of therapy and hypnosis by Milton Erickson. Buenos Aires: Paidós.

Getting Help - Psychotherapy: Crash Course Psychology #35 (November 2022).


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