Types of Therapy in Psychology: A Complete List

There are many types of therapy, but not everyone knows the difference between them or which one to choose. Learn about therapy types on  HealthyPlace.

There are many different types of therapy, so it can be hard to know what kind you need. In psychology, therapists usually draw on one or more modes of treatment, and they may vary their techniques between patients. Most psychologists specialize in a specific practice – such as psychotherapy or CBT – so if you're looking for a therapist, it can be helpful to explore which solution might be right for you. With this in mind, here are the different types of therapy and what they do.

Types of Therapy Available in the U.S.

Types of therapy may vary depending on where you live, but most therapeutic techniques are modeled on five main types. These practices are rooted in years of research and in-depth studies, and they provide therapists with a roadmap to follow when it comes to helping their patients.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), modern types of therapy for mental health include:

  • Psychoanalysis / psychodynamic therapy

    Psychoanalytic therapy is grounded in the teachings of Sigmund Freud and is one of the most well-known treatment models for mental health. This mode of therapy aims to help patients understand how the unconscious mind (typically informed by one's past or childhood) can influence present behaviors.

    Modern psychoanalysis involves your therapist listening to you talking about your life and past. Treatment can be quite intensive, but it provides a safe space for you to share your thoughts and feelings and can help you get to the bottom of your actions, relationships and sense of self. Psychoanalytic techniques may include dream interpretation, free association (freely sharing any thoughts or feelings that come to mind) and transference.
  • Cognitive therapy

    There are different types of cognitive therapy, but most of the time, this model focuses on what patients think rather than what they do. In other words, a cognitive therapist will work to understand dysfunctional thinking patterns to change current behaviors. In basic terms, it is more focused on current and future behavior than past trauma, unlike Freudian psychoanalysis.

    Dr. Aaron Beck pioneered cognitive therapy in the 1960s. Modern cognitive therapy applies to a broad range of mental health challenges, including substance abuse, addiction, depression, anxiety and panic disorders. Cognitive techniques are often combined with behavioral therapy to form CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).
  • Behavioral therapy

    This mode of therapy focuses on the development of normal and abnormal behaviors. Types of behavioral therapy techniques include discovering classical conditioning (acts endorsed by associations built in the brain), desensitizing or "repeated exposure," which can be particularly helpful when treating anxiety and phobias, and operant conditioning, which involves using rewards and punishment to shape behavior.
  • Humanistic therapy / human-centered therapy

    Humanistic therapy encourages a more natural relationship between patient and therapist. It rejects the idea of the therapist as an authority figure and encourages practitioners to express concern, care and compassion toward their clients.

    Humanistic therapy also places confidence in the patient’s capacity to make rational choices. It also emphasizes the importance of the present moment and accepting responsibility for oneself. Existential therapy is a brand of humanistic therapy that focuses specifically on free will and self-determination.

    Patients experiencing depression, panic disorders, anxiety, personality disorders, addiction or schizophrenia may all benefit from humanistic therapy. It can also be used more generally to treat low self-esteem and relationship issues.
  • Integrative therapy / holistic therapy

    Not all therapists tie themselves to specific types of therapy. Many will blend elements from all of these different approaches to provide a "holistic" solution that treats the patient as an individual and works to meet their unique needs. Examples of holistic therapy include mindfulness and somatic therapy.

    Within these categories, other branches of therapy can be explored. However, these five types make up the basic framework from which most psychologists and psychiatrists work.

Types of Therapy for Mental Health: Which Is Right for You?

Choosing the right type of therapy for your mental health is essential. There are benefits to all of the approaches explored here, and there is no catch-all solution for most problems or disorders.

The best way to find a therapist is to find a doctor you trust and ask them what kind of therapy they recommend for your specific needs. Alternatively, you can use the search tool on the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) website to find a therapist in your state.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, August 18). Types of Therapy in Psychology: A Complete List, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Last Updated: October 15, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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