Types of psychotherapy and their brief description

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Psychotherapy is a scientific direction of psychological practice. The goal of psychotherapy is to help the patient to understand the causes of personal problems, to find resources to solve them. This goal can be achieved by different methods; there are several schools of psychotherapy. I propose to consider the most popular teachings: psychoanalysis, systemic family psychology, neurolinguistic programming, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy, gestalt therapy.


The oldest, first type of psychotherapy. Its base was laid by Z. Freud in 1895. By our time, the concept has undergone some changes, but still remains the leading direction in the theory and practice of psychotherapy. Psychoanalysis became the foundation of all other teachings.

The essence of psychoanalysis:

  • The basis of the direction is the method of free associations. The basic rule of psychoanalysis is: tell the therapist about all your thoughts, feelings, memories, fantasies that arise during the session.
  • The specialist, in turn, interprets the patient’s associations, feelings about these images and obstacles to the associative flow. Freud paid particular attention to the interpretation of clients’ dreams.
  • Assumptions about the connection between the client’s unconscious and conscious psychotherapist pronounces aloud.
  • This is what psychotherapy sessions are for, in order to get the repressed events out of the subconscious. However, Freud singled out not only the conscious, subconscious, but also the preconscious. In this area are forgotten, but not yet repressed memories. You can return them to the level of consciousness on your own, without the help of an analyst.

The difficulties of psychoanalysis:

  • Resistance from the unconscious, preventing treatment, identifying problems.
  • The client’s reaction of the transference to the psychoanalyst. There is a transfer to a specialist of the client’s mental and behavioral reactions aimed at people from the unconscious. For example, anger towards a parent or husband turns into anger and aggression towards a psychoanalyst.
  • Countertransference reaction, i.e. transference from the unconscious specialist and response to the client’s transference.
  • The psychoanalysis method is used to treat neuroses. The cause of neurosis is the internal contradiction of morality, ethics and intelligence of the individual. The psychoanalyst must help find this conflict and resolve it.

During the transfer, the client endows the specialist with the qualities of one side, then the other. Transference interpretation allows you to assess the problem in the “here and now” mode. The cause of the conflict becomes obvious to both the specialist and the client.

Systemic family psychotherapy

Considers the family as a system, that is, in the context of marital and child-parental relations. In this case, the family is considered as a single living organism, where all the elements affect each other.

The concept says that people do what the family dictates, not according to their needs and motives. The system is primary. Accordingly, the psychotherapist should influence the system, and not the individual participant. Therefore, the parent’s alcoholism, deviations in the child’s behavior, and other seemingly personal problems require comprehensive work with the family.

The laws of the functioning of any family:

  • The system seeks to maintain consistency, maintain stability. Often this hinders the development of each individual participant, because it is not only about avoiding negative changes, but also about positive events that change the functionality, structure, and size of the family.
  • The law of development as an aspiration to go through the full life cycle of a family. The age of family members is changing, along with this their needs, attitude towards the family, the world, and the nature of communication also changes. After the birth of a child or the death of someone from the family, its structure and number change.

Every family goes through several regulatory crises. During these periods, as a rule, it is necessary to consult a psychotherapist. However, there are also abnormal family and personal crises.

Principles of Systemic Family Psychotherapy:

  • A circular vision of the problem, the question “why”. For example, a mother complains about the child’s poor progress. By connecting circular analysis, we find out that the problem is that the mother always does her homework with the child. There are problems at school, because the child does not know how to solve problems on his own. Here the question arises: “Why does a mother make a child helpless?” The answer is simple: she needs care, attention, emotions. She has formed a void due to problems in relations with her husband, but she cannot talk to him, so as not to upset the balance. So he realizes himself, receives love in another accessible way.
  • Neutrality. The psychotherapist should treat the parents and the child equally.
  • Hypothetical. It is necessary to constantly raise the question “why”, not “why”. It is necessary to put forward assumptions about the usefulness of family dysfunction for some of its participants, to test this hypothesis.

The sessions are held with all family members at once, which complicates the interaction.

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)

NLP is a system of techniques and methods of reprogramming consciousness, changing thinking, stereotypes of personality behavior. It is used both for the treatment of psychological diseases and for the disclosure of the potential of the individual, the transition from a normal healthy state to a state of maximum productivity. NLP has proven especially positive in the treatment of phobias. You can get rid of fear in one session.

NLP involves the study, assimilation and modeling of the experience of the person, which contains the desired trait. Roughly speaking, this is a copying of someone’s model of behavior, peculiarities of thinking.

Principles of the approach:

  • All people are healthy, perfect, serviceable.
  • Every act is done with good intentions.
  • A person already has all the necessary resources, you just need to help him find access to them.
  • People are making the best choices currently available.
  • Anyone is capable of anything. You just need to find someone who can do it and simulate his behavior.
  • A person reacts to how he perceives reality, and not to reality itself.
  • There are no mistakes, there are only feedbacks.

So, as you may have noticed, the basis of successful NLP is a positive attitude of a specialist, an increase in the client’s self-confidence.

Cognitive behavioral psychotherapy

The second most popular direction after psychoanalysis. An alternative name is cognitive-behavioral therapy.

3 directions are used:

  • Changing behavior by reinforcing the desired behavior and punishing the unwanted, the formation of reflexes. For example, you can relieve fear by demonstrating the fear object in combination with something pleasing to the client.
  • The method of social learning, playing a problem situation in training.
  • Confrontation method. The client first learns relaxation techniques, and then imagines himself in a stressful situation that personally frightens him. The next step in the same relaxation, together with a psychologist, he plunges into a stressful situation. At the third stage, the client relaxes on his own and immerses himself in frightening conditions.

In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy involves the analysis of information. The client and the specialist analyze the problem, analyze the conditions in which it is aggravated and, on the contrary, smoothed out, draw up a list of necessary resources, analyze the client’s available capabilities, draw up a work plan.

Gestalt therapy

Gestalt therapy considers a person in unity with nature, analyzes all the problems that arise on the border of the biological and the social, all the contacts of the individual with the outside world. And above all, physiological responses to repressed emotions.

Gestalt therapy examines a person’s projected responses to situations from the past. An unclosed gestalt is an unprocessed, unliving experience. For example, a person who suffered abuse as a child does not trust anyone in the present. The task of therapy is to work through and close that situation, to teach a person to perceive reality in a new way, to react to it differently. Gestalt therapy allows you to deal with old psychotraumas, eliminate post-traumatic syndrome.

In addition to these types, there is another type of psychotherapy in demand – psychodrama.

Category: Psychotherapy


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I’ve hurt myself while trying to help myself more than you can imagine, that’s why I want to scientifically analyze every popular self-help technique and ‘method’ there is.