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What Kind of Therapy Is Right for You?

Cara Maksimow, LCSW, explains the different types of therapy you might encounter, and how to know which type is right for your mental health.

Lauren SmithMera Goodman, MD
Written by Lauren Smith | Reviewed by Mera Goodman, MD
Published on September 1, 2020

If you’re new to therapy, you might assume all therapy looks the same: You sit across from a therapist and talk about your problems. In reality, there are numerous types of therapy you may encounter. Your therapist may tell you upfront what approach they’re using, or they might not. Some therapists specialize in a specific type, while others may use a “blended” approach to adapt to the needs of the client.

“I’m a big believer that [therapy] is patient-directed or client-directed,” says Cara Maksimow, LCSW. “When somebody comes in wanting to work on a specific issue, that’s going to be the treatment plan.”

It’s a good idea to ask your therapist during the first session what therapy approach they like to use. This can help you figure out if this therapist is the right fit for you.

Types of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is “talk therapy.” There are some specific types of psychotherapy that are popular today, including:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT: This approach focuses on dysfunctional thought patterns that lead to unwanted behaviors. The goal is to help you recognize distorted thinking. Then, you can reframe your thoughts and change your actions.

Psychodynamic therapy: This approach helps you consider how your past life events and relationships may affect your current feelings and choices. It can help you become more aware of “trouble spots” in your life that are holding you back.

Exposure therapy: This is a treatment for anxiety disorders, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and phobias. It helps “expose” the patient to the thing they fear in a safe environment.

Group therapy: In this approach, a group of individuals with a shared problem meet with one or more psychologists. This setup allows them to work through their common problems together. It can also help reduce shame about their illness, build a network, and develop social skills.

What’s Right for You?

It might be useful to do some basic research before looking for therapists or meeting with one. The recommended therapy approach may differ depending on your needs. For example, if you are struggling with OCD, you might benefit from a therapist who specializes in exposure therapy or CBT. If you want to get better at expressing your feelings or being more aware of your thoughts and triggers, you may benefit from psychodynamic therapy.

If you’re not sure, meet with a therapist and tell them what you’re struggling with. Many may be honest with you if they think they are not the best fit for you, depending on your needs. They may also be able to recommend the best therapy approach for you.

Whichever you choose, find out what to expect at your first therapy session here.

Additional Medical Contributors
  • Cara MaksimowCara Maksimow is a licensed clinical social worker in New Jersey. She is the founder of Maximize Wellness Counseling and Coaching.
    GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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