Types of Therapies

Types of Therapies

Theoretical Orientations and Practices of Therapists

John M. Grohol, Psy.D. 


There are hundreds of different types of theoretical orientations and techniques that therapists use nowadays in the field of psychotherapy. You, as a consumer of mental health services, want an overview, however, of these types of approaches to therapy and practice. Luckily, you’ve turned to the right place. In this document, I will review the main schools of theory and the techniques they utilize in practice. Granted, such an overview is going to miss a lot and generalize even more (something my professors back in graduate school would kill me for!), but I feel information is important. I will, therefore, try and be mildly objective and unbiased in my presentation, when possible. Be aware that any therapist, no matter what their background or training actually is, can say they practice or subscribe to any of the below major schools of thought in psychology; a therapist’s educational degree is no guarantee of any one theoretical or treatment orientation.

Four schools of theory and therapy will be examined here: Psycho dynamic (and psychoanalytic); Cognitive-behavioral (and behavioral); Humanistic (and existential); and Eclectic. The parentheses indicate theories that are also covered in the same section, but only in passing or in conjunction with the other school; most are somewhat interchangeable. Note that although I don’t have any current plans to add any other types of therapy and theories here right now (such as interpersonal, gestalt, or family systems), that may change at some point in the future. Before we begin this journey together through education, let me warn you that this article is not a scholarly, objective, dry, journal piece. (If you are a colleague of mine and don’t like some things I’ve said about the school of theory or therapy you subscribe to, I’ll apologize at the onset here and save you from having to write me about it!)

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