CBT is one of the most common forms of psychotherapy, combining cognitive and behavioral therapy to target unhelpful thoughts and behaviors.
CBT is based on the theory that a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are deeply connected. Furthermore, the way a person views a situation is more closely related to their reaction than the situation itself. Changing our thoughts or behaviors can thus influence how we view situations that might have caused us distress.
Identifying the client’s limiting thoughts and behaviors is the first step to CBT. The therapist then teaches the client skills to evaluate or change their distorted thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The emphasis is on problem-solving and initiating behavioral changes.
DBT was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder by equipping the client with skills to navigate difficult emotions and minimize interpersonal conflicts, but is now also used for numerous mental health conditions.
The foundation of DBT lies in the philosophical perspective of dialectics—the idea that two (seemingly) opposing perspectives can be true at the same time. A common phrase used in DBT is both/and (e.g. “I can love my parents and disagree with them”),as opposed to either/or (e.g. “I either love or hate my parents, there is no middle ground”). One of the key features of DBT is promoting balance and avoiding black-and-white thinking.
The therapist focuses on teaching skills in 4 main areas:
Mindfulness: the ability be present in the current moment and accept it
Distress Tolerance: the ability to tolerate difficult emotions
Emotion Regulation: the ability to regulate intense emotions
Interpersonal Effectiveness: the ability to foster healthy relationships while maintaining self-respect
ACT revolves around helping the client to develop psychological flexibility, accept their psychological experiences, and make necessary changes in their behavior.
ACT is based on the belief that difficult emotions such as anxiety, grief, and disappointment are inevitable parts of life. Thus, trying to suppress them is ineffective (or even counterproductive) as doing so leads to more distress.
A key therapeutic goal is cultivating psychological flexibility—the ability to be aware of the present moment, and changing or maintaining behaviors to align with one’s personal values. Psychological flexibility is strengthened through learning skills in 6 main areas:
Being Present: focusing on the present moment with openness and receptiveness
Values: recognizing fundamental values and principles that are meaningful to you
Commitment: committing to and taking action in line with identified values and goals
The Observing Self: observing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences from a detached perspective
Cognitive Defusion: stepping back from thoughts and seeing them as what they are—pieces of language, words, or pictures
Acceptance: willingly embracing difficult emotions and thoughts
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on understanding the unconscious mind and the influence the past has on present behavior.
One basic assumption of psychodynamic therapy is that our emotions, motives, decisions, and actions are powerfully influenced by our past experiences that are stored in the unconscious mind. Using the iceberg analogy, the further down the iceberg we go, the less accessible conscious awareness becomes to us.
Psychodynamic therapy is distinct from other types of therapy in that it focuses on recovering and interpreting repressed memories and emotions. The goal is to increase the client’s self-awareness by helping them to understand how their repressed emotions affect their current decisions, behaviors, and relationships.
Art therapy encourages clients to express themselves artistically with the therapist examining the psychological undertones in their clients’ art—an approach that can be considered less intimidating as it serves as an indirect way to discuss emotional issues.
Artistic expression offers therapeutic value for those dealing with difficult emotions, and offers a gateway for the client to access their subconscious or unconscious mind.
Artistic talent is not needed for art therapy to succeed, because the focus is on identifying how the client’s creative choices and inner life are connected. This is uncovered when the therapist asks the client about their feelings or experience creating the artwork.
Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
In One Sentence
In EMDR sessions, the client accesses traumatic memories in brief sequential doses while focusing on an external stimulus to reduce the intensity of their memories.
Certain eye movements can soften the harshness of traumatic thoughts or memories.
EMDR is distinct from other types of therapy in that it focuses directly on traumatic memories, as opposed to the emotions or thoughts resulting from those memories. The goal is to alter the way that the memories are stored in the brain, thus reducing the difficult emotions or thoughts that may arise from them. The most common external stimulus is lateral eye movements, but other stimuli such as hand-tapping or audio stimulation can be used too.