What different therapies are there? 

Talking therapies can differ in: 

  • Their focus (for example, learning about more yourself by talking about your past, or working on overcoming a specific problem you have now) 
  • The techniques the therapist might use during sessions 
  • The academic theory behind them. 

Therapists use all sorts of complicated words to describe their particular style of therapy, which can be really confusing. This table explains some common terms you might come across: 


Term used What it means about the therapy 
Arts or creative  Uses creative processes such as painting, drawing, drama and music as a way to help explore and communicate difficult or confusing feelings – such as in arts and creative therapies
Behavioural  Explores the way you act. 
Cognitive Explores your thoughts and the way you think – such as in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Dialectical Explores opposite positions and looks at how they might exist together – such as in dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT)
Humanistic Focuses on the individual as a whole, including mind, body, spirit and soul.
Mindfulness-based  Involves becoming aware of all your current thoughts and feelings and learning how to accept them. Often involves mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and breathing exercises.
Person- centred  Focuses on using your own strengths and insight about yourself to encourage personal growth and improve relationships. 
Psychoanalytic (or analytic)  Focuses on unconscious, deep-rooted thoughts that often stem from childhood. 
Psychodynamic (or dynamic)  Explores how your unconscious thoughts and feelings might affect the way you act.
Solution-focused Focuses on what you want to achieve in the future rather than exploring past experiences. 

Many therapists are trained in several different styles and will tailor their approach for you. In this case they might also use words like ‘eclectic’, ‘blended’ or ‘integrative’ when they describe how they work. 


The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) website has an extensive A–Z of therapeutic approaches. This list covers many types of therapy by name, and explains the different beliefs and approaches behind each one. 


But it’s important to be aware that not all therapies are available everywhere. Sometimes it can feel like you don’t have much choice, as it may largely depend on what’s available locally. It might help most to learn what’s available to you personally, and talk with your therapist about how to get the most from your therapy


“Don’t be disheartened if the first talking treatment you try doesn’t help. It took me three attempts to find the right therapy for my anxiety and six to find the right one for my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – the right treatment is out there.”

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