If you’ve worked up the courage to go to therapy for the first time, congratulations. It can be a hard and emotional decision, but something you’ll likely be grateful for for years to come. However, how do you choose which therapist and which style of therapy is right for you? There are so many different types of therapy and everyone’s personality and issues are different, so your therapy (and therapist) should reflect that. We talked to Sheffy Bhayee, a Toronto-based psychotherapist, about the most common types of therapy and how to pick the right one for you.
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CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)
This short-term, goal-oriented therapy focuses on shifting negative patterns of thinking. The treatment takes a hands-on, practical approach, like keeping records of thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It helps treat a range of issues, including anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
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ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy)
ACT is a form of therapy that combines mindfulness with the practice of self-acceptance. “I personally love integrating elements of ACT in my practice and it’s quite useful for folks who have tried other cognitive-based therapies that have been effective,” says Bhayee. “It also resonates with children and younger adults due to the light and humorous techniques.”
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DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy)
This form of therapy focuses on helping people learn new coping skills and strategies, to give people a more measured way of acting/reacting to situations. DBT is usually used to treat people with borderline personality disorder, mood disorders and/or those experiencing suicidal thoughts.
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SFBT (solution-focused brief therapy)
This type of therapy is very action-oriented and focuses on solutions rather than the problems that brought the client there. “For folks who are looking to make changes in the immediate future, this form of therapy helps to build motivation and move clients toward change,” says Bhayee. “This is becoming more popular due to its brief duration, which makes it affordable.”
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EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing)
This interactive therapy technique is an effective treatment for those who have experienced trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder. The person being treated is asked to recall distressing images, while the therapist introduces sensory input like tapping or side-to-side eye movements.
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CST (culturally-sensitive therapy)
This form of therapy focuses on the therapist’s understanding of the client’s background, ethnicity and overall belief/value system. “Choosing a culturally-competent therapist is a preference for many individuals and in my experience, it helps folks feel heard, understood and empowered to navigate the difficulties of their culture and to celebrate its perks,” says Bhayee.
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MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy)
This type of therapy uses many cognitive behaviour therapy techniques in collaboration with mindfulness meditative practices. It helps people learn to live with and achieve relief from feelings of distress. It’s often used to treat those suffering from moderate anxiety and depression.
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Gottman method/couples therapy
“This is a popular approach for couples therapy,” says Bhayee. “There are a lot of therapists trained in this modality and there has been extensive research in its effectiveness. It is focused on providing psycho-education and skills for couples to work towards a healthy relationship.”
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Psychodynamic therapy or psychoanalytic therapy is an in-depth form of talk therapy that will cover anything from fears, desires, dreams, fantasies, etc. It is usually used to treat serious psychological disorders such as depression and for those who have lost meaning in their lives.
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This type of therapy can draw on a variety of styles like CBT or psychodynamic therapy, but in a group setting. This is often a good choice for those who want to connect with people struggling with a similar mental health issue. It also tends to be cheaper, so it’s good for those on a budget.
Related: How Your Attachment Style Affects You.