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How to Choose the Right Kind of Therapy

With dozens of different talk therapy styles, it can be difficult to find the treatment that works best for you. Choosing the right kind of therapy depends on your diagnosis, your personal preference, and even the therapist! In this article, we’ll break down some of the most effective types of therapy for different mental health challenges.

Different Types of Therapy

Some of these therapies are laser-focused on specific problems, while others can treat many different mental health challenges. But they all share a common thread: working through your difficulties by talking to a specially trained therapist.

At APN London, we focus on evidence-based therapies, meaning they have the scientific support of both academic and clinical research. They have proved their ability to help people with mental health challenges and can do the same for you. These therapies include:

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioural therapy is perhaps the most well-studied and commonly used form of talk therapy in the United Kingdom today. CBT is based on a simple principle: your thoughts, behaviours, and mood are all intertwined, and by changing the way you think, you can change the way you feel and act.

CBT has rigorous scientific evidence showing that it can help people through a diverse set of mental health challenges, including:

  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

But more than just helping people with specific mental health diagnoses, CBT can also serve to guide you to a more enjoyable, productive, and happy life.

A typical CBT session uses several techniques to help people in this process. This could include learning about cognitive distortions (irrational thoughts that influence emotions) or practising reframing, where you challenge these thoughts.

CBT happens outside of the therapy room as well. Your therapist may provide you with worksheets or readings to continue your self-work journey outside of the therapy office and have you practise your skills in everyday life.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behaviour therapy was created from the foundation of CBT, but it changed many key aspects to make this style of therapy more approachable. Originally, DBT was created to treat borderline personality disorder, which had no effective treatment or therapy options at the time to help people living with this debilitating disorder.

DBT adds two essential elements to the CBT framework: mindfulness and acceptance. Sometimes, you can’t simply think your way out of a problem. But you can learn to accept your thoughts without judgement, learn not to react to your stressors, and find peace and acceptance despite your mental health symptoms.

Traditionally, DBT is delivered in three main ways:

  1. Individual sessions with your DBT therapist
  2. Skills training groups with a group of peers with similar challenges
  3. Phone coaching sessions throughout the week

Although DBT started as a therapy specifically for people with borderline personality disorder, it has quickly proved effective for treating other mental illnesses, such as:

  • Mood disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Self-harm
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

DBT works best for people who feel like they lack control over their behaviour, and need support in regaining control over their life.

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

Rational emotive behaviour therapy, like many other therapeutic styles, builds upon the foundation of CBT. Similar to CBT, the connection between thoughts, emotions, and behaviour is critical to REBT, but it shifts the focus from changing how you think to changing how you feel.

One of the core concepts of REBT is the “ABC” model. This model serves to explain how your interpretation of distressing events is often the true cause of your mental health challenges rather than the event itself. ABC stands for:

  • A: The activating event is something that happens around you
  • B: The belief is how you think and feel about the event
  • C: The consequence is your emotional response to the belief

You can experience significantly reduced symptoms by challenging yourself and working to change your beliefs about the world around you. REBT is used to treat a number of mental health challenges, including:

  • Depression
  • Distress
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Psychotic symptoms
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

REBT is a highly effective form of therapy. It can help you learn to manage your emotions and reactions in everyday life, which often causes a cascade of positive mental health benefits.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing, sometimes called motivational enhancement therapy, is dramatically different from the types of therapy described so far. CBT, DBT, and REBT are all prescriptive, which means they have an expert guide you towards tried-and-true methods for helping you overcome your symptoms.

In contrast, motivational interviewing is inherently collaborative; you play the main role in determining what needs to be done for you to feel better.

This might seem contradictory. After all, if you’re seeking treatment, you may feel you need a professional to guide you along the path to recovery. But many people actually have a clear understanding of what they need to do to feel better. They just need some help building and maintaining the motivation to change.

Motivational interviewing works very well for people who resist being told what to do or who feel ambivalent about the treatment process. But you’re also not going it alone — a motivational enhancement therapist is there to guide you to the right decisions, make sure you don’t get sidetracked, and provide expert insight when you need it to make progress in your recovery.

Motivational interviewing is an incredibly effective form of talk therapy, particularly for people with substance use disorders. It can also help treat:

  • Gambling disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Chronic health issues
  • Lifestyle problems

Experts usually recommend against motivational interviewing if someone is already committed to seeking help, willing to participate in other forms of therapy, and ready to follow a prescribed path to recovery. But for those who are still unsure, motivational interviewing can help guide you in the right direction.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing is a style of therapy designed specifically to treat trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. EMDR builds upon the foundation of prolonged exposure therapy, but it makes the process much easier and more comfortable by using specialised techniques and tools to help people overcome traumatic experiences.

EMDR uses a special technique known as bilateral stimulation to aid the therapy process. Bilateral stimulation refers to activating both hemispheres of your brain. This is thought to help “unstick” traumatic memories and experiences.

While EMDR therapists have multiple tools for creating this effect, some common examples include:

  • Tracking a light moving from the right side of your vision to the left and back again
  • Rhythmic tapping on your knees or shoulders, alternating from the right side to the left side
  • Wearing headphones that alternate tones from your right ear to your left ear

By drawing attention from the right field of perception to the left and the left to the right, regions on both sides of the brain become activated. It can help people work through the difficult experience of processing traumatic events.

While the unique methods used in EMDR are what distinguishes it from other forms of therapy, it is still a form of talk therapy. Decades of research have led therapists to know how to help people through traumatic experiences. The eye movement just helps people access and process their memories.

Parts Work

Parts work is a style of therapy that views each individual as a collection of “parts.” For example, you may have a different personality at home than you do at work. You may compartmentalise certain aspects of your personality in different situations.

Parts work therapy helps people to overcome their mental health challenges by addressing which parts have been repressed or disavowed and which have been elevated beyond reasonable levels. It is a lens for how to see oneself and work through a wide range of problems in everyday life.

Parts work therapy is primarily used as a treatment for trauma. A parts work therapist helps their clients discover and generate new and creative solutions to the unique challenges they face and achieve a more holistic sense of self in the process.

Lifestyle Psychiatry

Lifestyle psychiatry combines elements of traditional mental health interventions, such as medication management and talk therapy, with lifestyle interventions that can inspire a more holistic sense of health and wellness.

This could include working with nutritionists, exercise specialists, sleep specialists, and a number of other adjunctive treatments which can guide you on the path to recovery.

Which Therapy is Right for You?

Deciding which therapy you should start depends on two major factors:

  1. If you have a specific mental illness, does it have evidence supporting its effectiveness at resolving your symptoms?
  2. Which style of therapy do you think you’d get the most benefit from?

Personal preference actually plays a large role in how well people achieve their goals in recovery. Therapy works best when people are actively committed to the treatment process and ready to engage in the treatments and interventions that their therapist provides.

If you’re still not sure which therapy would best fit your needs, consider reaching out to the mental health professionals at APN London by calling 0203 984 7699 or filling out our confidential online contact form.

References

  • How Parts Work Helps Us Get to Know Ourselves | Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/making-the-whole-beautiful/202202/how-parts-work-helps-us-get-know-ourselves. Accessed 15 Jan. 2024.
  • “Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.” Albert Ellis Institute, albertellis.org/rebt-cbt-therapy/. Accessed 13 Jan. 2024.