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How To Choose The Right Therapy For Me

So you’ve decided to step into the adulting world and make the difficult decision to seek help. Now what? It can be an uncomfortable experience to be vulnerable with a complete stranger. Even harder sometimes, to figure out what type of therapy is right for you.

You’ve probably heard a bunch of different terms like holistic, mindfulness, CBT, and self-care. What does this all mean and how can it help you find a therapist?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy, and the professional that works well for someone else might not work as well for you. Here are 5 therapeutic modalities (approaches) to consider:

Solution Focused Brief Therapy — SFBT

SFBT is a goal-directed collaborative approach. It focuses on the present and future, focusing on the past only to the degree necessary to gain an accurate understanding of the person’s concerns. The focus is on identifying the individual’s goals, generating a detailed description of what life will be like when the goal is accomplished and the problem is either gone or coped with satisfactorily.

Duration: As the name implies therapy is brief. Average is usually 4- 8 sessions.

Structure: SFBT is future-focused, goal-directed, and focuses on solutions, rather than on the problems.

Effective Treatment For:  Students who are experiencing behavioural concerns or academic/school- related concerns. It has also proven effective as an approach to family therapy and couples counselling. SBFT may not be recommended for those who are experiencing severe mental health concerns.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy — CBT

CBT focuses on the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems and changing unhelpful cognitive patterns (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, behaviours, emotions). CBT is an action-oriented form of therapy focusing on specific problems. The therapist’s role is to assist the individual in finding and practicing effective strategies to address the identified goals and decrease symptoms of mental health issues. CBT is based on the belief that symptoms and associated distress can be reduced by teaching new information-processing skills and coping mechanisms.

Duration: A typical CBT program usually consists of 6–18 sessions. Some booster sessions (after 1–3 months) might follow.

Structure: Often brief, direct, and time-limited treatments for individual psychological disorders that are specific technique-driven.

Effective Treatment For: Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), tics, substance abuse, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, OCD.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy — DBT

DBT is a therapy primarily designed to help people suffering from personality disorders. This approach works towards helping people increase their emotional and cognitive regulation by learning about the triggers that lead to reactive states and helping to assess which coping skills to apply in the sequence of events, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to help avoid undesired reactions. DBT assumes that people are doing their best but lack the skills needed to succeed, or are influenced by positive or negative reinforcements that interfere with their ability to function appropriately

Duration: DBT is a longer-term therapy. The average length of time that an individual stays in the DBT program is 2 1/2 years. Sessions are aimed to help the person generalize their skills into their lives, support them while they do trauma work (if necessary), and get them closer to their long-term goals.

Structure: DBT focuses on the client acquiring new skills and changing their behaviours with the ultimate goal of achieving a “life worth living,” as defined by the client. Usually done through skills curriculum either in individual one-on-one or group sessions.

Effective Treatment For: DBT is used primarily in the treatment of suicidal ideation, borderline personality, self-harm, substance dependence, eating and food issues, depression, and PTSD.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy — IPT

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a brief, attachment-focused psychotherapy that centres on resolving interpersonal problems and symptomatic recovery. IPT is based on the principle that relationships and life events impact mood and vice versa. The aim of IPT is to help the person to improve interpersonal and intrapersonal communication skills within relationships and to develop social support networks with realistic expectations to deal with the crises precipitated in distress’ and to weather ‘interpersonal storms’.

Duration: Usually 12–16 weeks.

Structure: Highly structured and time-limited approach. Employs homework and structured interviews and assessment tools.

Effective Treatment For: Depressive disorders, substance use disorders, eating disorders, grief/loss, conflict in significant relationships, difficulties adapting to change, difficulties from social isolation.

Mindfulness-Based Therapy

Therapeutic approaches grounded in mindfulness promote the practice as an important part of good physical and mental health. Mindfulness-based stress reduction, designed to deliberately focus a person’s attention on the present experience in a way that is non-judgmental. Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation focus on becoming aware of all incoming thoughts and feelings and accepting them, but not attaching or reacting to them. This process is known as “decentering” and aids in disengaging from self-criticism, rumination, and dysphoric mood that can arise when reacting to negative thinking patterns.

Duration: Can be done in individual one-on-one sessions or in a group session. Usually 8 sessions.

Structure: Mindfulness-based approaches are most commonly delivered through the use of mindfulness meditation. During mindfulness meditation, the therapist will typically guide the client to direct their focus on the present moment.

Effective Treatment For: Addressing stress, chronic pain, cancer, anxiety, depression, eating and food issues, psychosis, bipolar, panic attacks, attention deficit hyperactivity, PTSD.

 

So there you have it! Go with the approach that you think suits your needs best, but keep in mind some therapists are trained in several different techniques and use an eclectic approach to therapy. In other words, they use elements from a range of therapeutic approaches, with the goal of establishing a course that is personally tailored to you. One size does not fit all!! Many therapists take a holistic perspective, approaching the person as a whole being, helping them to gain awareness of the connections between emotions, thoughts, physical experiences, and spiritual understandings.

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