Let’s start today’s post by busting some myths about therapy – scroll down to find out more about all the different kinds of therapy out there! (Spoiler alert – there’s lots of them!)
Myth: Therapy is only for people with a mental illness
Truth: While therapy can definitely help people facing mental illness, it can also be really helpful for anyone by providing a space to express and explore emotions and situations
Myth: There is only one kind of therapy
Truth: There are lots of different kinds of therapy that address different experiences, work better for different people, and approach therapy from a different angle. If you haven’t found what’s right for you yet, it doesn’t mean it isn’t out there!
Myth: Therapy is only in person
Truth: Some therapists provide online or telephone support instead or in addition to in person therapy!
Myth: All therapists are the same, it doesn’t matter who the therapist is
Truth: The individual therapist and your relationship with them is extremely important and can vary hugely – it took me a long time to find the right person for me
Myth: Going to therapy is something you should hide
Truth: there’s nothing shameful about going to therapy
Myth: Therapy is accessible to everyone
Truth: Currently therapy is not equally accessible to everyone, and this needs to change. It can depend on location, financial situation and identity (for example) as to how accessible it is. However the NHS, charities, insurances and local initiatives do offer certain kinds of therapy and support so it’s definitely worth looking into what’s available to you!
Now here’s an introduction to the kinds of therapy available. If one sounds appealing to you, or like it would be a good fit for you or a loved one, I would encourage you to do some more research on it and have a look to see who is available to deliver that kind of therapy in your area.
CBT stands for cognitive behavioural therapy and is one of the most popular/ available therapies out there – for example the IAPT services in England (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) only offer CBT. It’s based on the idea that thoughts, emotions and physical sensations are linked and that negative thoughts lead to negative cycles. It centres around learning to break these thought patterns in practical ways, so is therefore more focused on changing the way you’re feeling in the present or with behaviours in a particular situation rather than a deep dive into past experiences, for example.
Many people find CBT to be of great help, but for some people it just doesn’t click. If you are neurodivergent and thinking of trying CBT I would definitely recommend trying to find a neuro-inclusive CBT service, as from personal experience the typical delivery of CBT is much more focused on a neurotypical thought pattern – however that is only my opinion!
The great thing about CBT’s popularity is that the structured skills it provides to deal with thought patterns, along with its basic concepts are now widely available for free. So if therapy isn’t viable/ comfortable for you at the moment then you can still learn some skills to implement. My personal favourite app to learn CBT skills is called Woebot. It’s laid out in an easy to explore and pleasing format, and you learn the skills from a cute little robot therapist. Definitely worth a look if you’re thinking of learning some more about CBT.
This next acronym stands for dialectical behaviour therapy. It’s based on CBT, but it’s specially adapted for people who feel emotions very intensely. Personally I liked this therapy more than DBT not because I am someone who experiences intense emotions (which I definitely am) but because of the way it was structured. It just made more sense to me personally.
DBT is often used to treat personality disorders and was originally developed for borderline personality disorder (a somewhat controversial condition), and has had success helping mood disorders, self harm, and suicidal ideation. It works in a way like CBT to break negative cycles and make positive changes, but also focuses on accepting who you are at the same time. A DBT therapy programme can be more intensive and involve group sessions also, however individual therapists using DBT skills can also be found.
Counselling is often seen as less ‘deep’ than therapy, but this isn’t necessarily the case. For some people (me included) the idea of counselling – talking with a therapist about an issue or your ongoing life, rather than focusing on specific structured skills – is really beneficial. With this kind of support though I think it’s perhaps even more important that you are comfortable talking to the counsellor, particularly if it is longer term, as your relationship with them is central to the strength of the conversations.
Many people also see counselling as a more short term therapy, but to me this is counterintuitive. Finding a therapist to build a long term, ongoing conversation with gives us a space to express our feelings about our daily lives and mitigate problems before they arise. Unfortunately ongoing therapy is rarely available through the NHS currently, but I hope to see that change soon!
Many therapists will be able to provide either counselling or more focused therapy, so it’s worth asking for a mixture of sessions/ approaches if you think that might work for you.
EMDR stands for eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing. It is designed to help alleviate and process the distress caused by past traumatic memories and experiences, and is quite different from the other therapies mentioned already. During the therapy the patient will briefly revisit the traumatic memory in a sequential (and guided) way whilst also focusing on external stimuli. This external stimuli is often the therapist directing the patients eye movements laterally, but could also include other variations such as hand tapping and audio input. It’s thought that this allows accessing the traumatic memory network in a way that kickstarts further processing and new positive associations. It allows for total processing, relearning, better present memories and more by activating your natural healing process and removing blocks. The process is highly structured and includes evaluation for readiness for EMDR, exploration and explanation of current symptoms, and making sure you have several tools to handle emotional stress. EMDR was initially designed to help patients with PTSD, many from army settings, but is now helpful for a variety of people with different symptoms and experiences. If this sounds like it could be helpful for you I would definitely recommend researching this incredible form of therapy further!
This kind of therapy is derived from psychoanalysis and the theories of Freud. It focuses on helping you understand how your current feelings and behaviour are shaped by your past experiences, along with your unconscious mind and impulses. It could be said that this kind of therapy focuses more on interpretation and the perspective of the client than a singular ‘problem’ like in CBT. Like all therapy the relationship with the therapist is very important, but this is one of the therapies where it is even more pronounced as it may involve discussing childhood memories, relationship with parents, etc. Psychodynamic therapy may even be what comes to mind when you first think of therapy! It’s less structured than DBT or EMDR for example, and many therapists will allow for free association in sessions (discussing whatever comes to mind). Some therapists may also combine this approach with others, so it’s worth having a look at what’s offered.
As the name might suggest, interpersonal therapy focuses on a patient’s relationships with those around them. It looks to improve relationships in their life to alleviate symptoms, because a central idea in interpersonal therapy is that psychological problems can be understood as a response to current everyday difficulties in relationships with other people. It is structured; time limited; focuses on the present; aims to improve interpersonal communication, functioning, and social support. If you are struggling with interpersonal relationships in general or specifically with family (for example) and you feel this is causing difficulties, then interpersonal therapy might be a good idea to help!
This is another kind of therapy that focuses on a client’s present life rather than past experiences, so will be more effective or relevant to some than others. It also revolves around taking responsibility rather than placing blame. Like psychodynamic therapy it involves the idea of perception – exploring how a person understands the world around them, and the context of their whole life. It operates on a basis that rather than purposefully digging up past experiences, as a client becomes more self aware they will start to overcome existing blocks. It is a less structured form of therapy.
Art/ Drama/ Music/ Animal Therapy
Ok I’ve lumped these all together because they essentially include a common theme of using a creative medium or a way of connection to work through difficulties. Art therapy involves expressing emotions and ideas through art for example, and animal therapy involves spending time around animals which can be very calming and help with empathy etc. Different therapists using another medium in therapy may have different approaches. For some it may just be about letting the patient self-direct and spend time engaging with music, animals etc. Others may still use structured approaches or conversational exploration in conjunction with mediums as an extra tool for expression, learning, or helping a client relax so that therapy is more accessible. Talking to a therapist to ask about their individual approach before starting is a good idea.
There are even more types of therapy than the ones mentioned above, and many things to think about when choosing a therapist or kind of therapy. Unfortunately therapy, or different kinds of therapy, are also not equally available. If you can please consider donating to local funds to support others on their healing journey, and write to your MP to demand change in the system. If you found this post informative or helpful please also follow this blog to support any work and get notified of future posts. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below
Have a great day!
Sedated: How modern capitalism created our mental health crisis, by James Davies