Psychotherapy is a generic term that includes a variety of of techniques which typically use dialogue and communication and which are designed to improve the mental health of a client or to improve group relationships (such as in a family).

Psychotherapy may address specific forms of diagnosable mental illness (such as depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, and addictions) or everyday problems in relationships or meeting personal goals. Treatment of everyday problems is more often referred to as counseling but the term is sometimes used interchangeably with "psychotherapy".

Major Types of Psychotherapy

Wikipedia in defining psychotherapy groups the major types of psychotherapy into one of six main systems of psychotherapy:

Cognitive behavioral therapy
Behavioral therapy
Brief therapy (sometimes called "strategic" therapy, solution focused brief therapy)
Systemic Therapy (including family therapy & marriage counseling).

A client entering psychotherapy typically feels that they are thinking, feeling, and/or behaving in ways that make them unhappy and are not productive. They may know they are unhappy, usually they are more than smart enough to understand that their behavior is not’t working for them anymore, but for some reason they can’t make a permanent change.

The most typical types of psychotherapy use only spoken conversation, though some also use various other forms of communication such as the written word, art work or touch. Commonly psychotherapy involves a therapist and client(s) who discuss their issues in an effort to discover underlying problems and to find constructive solutions.

In most countries, including the U.S., psychotherapists are trained, certified, and licensed, with a range of different certification and licensing requirements. Psychotherapists may be psychologists, social workers, marriage-family therapists, trained nurses, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, mental health counselors, school counselors, or some other classification of mental health professional.  Because sensitive topics are often discussed during psychotherapy, therapists are expected, and some are legally bound, to respect client or patient confidentiality.

Psychoanalysis was the earliest form of psychotherapy, but many other theories and techniques are also now used by psychotherapists. While behavior is often a target of the therapy, many approaches value working with feelings and thoughts.  Other approaches focus on the link between the mind and body and try to access deeper levels of the psyche through manipulation of the physical body. Examples are Rolfing, Pulsing and postural integration.

A distinction can also be made between those psychotherapies that employ a medical model and those that employ a humanistic model. In the medical model the client is seen as unwell and the therapist employs their skill to help them back to health. The extensive use of the DSM-IV, the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders in the United States, is an example of a medically-exclusive model.


There is considerable controversy over which form of psychotherapy is most effective, and more specifically, which types of therapy are optimal for treating which sorts of problems. Psychotherapy outcome research has had difficulty distinguishing between the success or failure of the different approaches to therapy. Not surprisingly, those who stay with their therapist for longer periods are more likely to report positively on what develops into a longer term relationship. Many psychotherapists believe that the nuances of psychotherapy cannot be captured by questionnaire-style observation, and prefer to rely on their own clinical experiences and conceptual arguments to support the type of treatment they practice.

The therapeutic relationship

Research has shown that the quality of the relationship between the therapist and the client has a greater influence on client outcomes than the specific type of psychotherapy used by the therapist.  Accordingly, most contemporary schools of psychotherapy focus on the healing power of the therapeutic relationship.

In the 20th century a great number of psychotherapies were created. All of these face continuous change, both in popularity, methods and effectiveness. Sometimes they are self-administered, either individually, in pairs, small groups or larger groups. However, usually a professional practitioner will use a combination of therapies and approaches.

List of Psychotherapies

The following is a list of psychotherapies. Included are some approaches that may not call themselves a psychotherapy but have a similar aim, of improving mental health and well being through talk and other means of communication. The linked items in this list will provide you with more information.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Adlerian therapy
Analytical psychology
Art Therapy
Autogenic training
Behavior therapy
Biodynamic psychotherapy
Bioenergetic analysis
Bionomic psychotherapy
Body Mind Psychotherapy
Body-Oriented Psychotherapy
Body psychotherapy
Brief therapy
Classical Adlerian Psychotherapy
Client-centered psychotherapy/counseling
Cognitive analytic psychotherapy
Cognitive behavioral psychotherapy
Concentrative movement therapy
Contemplative Psychotherapy
Conversational Model (The)
Core Energetics
Core process psychotherapy
Daseins analytic psychotherapy
Dance therapy
Depth Psychology
Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy
Dialectical behavior therapy
Drama therapy
Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)
Encounter groups
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Existential therapy
Expressive therapy
Family therapy
Feminist therapy
Freudian psychotherapy
Gestalt therapy
Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy
Group therapy
Holotropic Breathwork
Humanistic psychology
Human givens psychotherapy
IBP Integrative Body Psychotherapy
Integrative Psychotherapy
Internal Family Systems Model
Interpersonal therapy
Jungian psychotherapy
Lifespan Integration
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Method of Levels (MOL)
The Moving Cycle
Multicultural Counseling and Therapy (MCT)
Multimodal Therapy
Music therapy
Narrative Therapy
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)
Object relations theory
Pastoral counseling/therapy
Personal construct psychology (PCP)
Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor (PBSP)
Play therapy
Positive psychotherapy
Postural Integration
Primal integration
Primal therapy
Process Oriented Psychology
Provocative Therapy
Psychedelic psychotherapy
Psychodynamic psychotherapy
Psychological astrology
Psycho-organic analysis
Psychosystems Analysis
Pulsing (bodywork)
Radix therapy
Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)
Re-evaluation Counseling
Relational-Cultural Therapy
Relationship Counseling
Reality therapy
Reichian psychotherapy
Person-centred (or Rogerian) psychotherapy
Rubenfeld Synergy
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
Social Therapy
Solution focused brief therapy
Somatic Psychology
Sophia analysis
Self Relationship (or Sponsorship)
Systemic Therapy
Systematic desensitization
SHEN Therapy
T Groups
Thought Field Therapy
Transactional analysis (TA)
Transpersonal psychology
Twelve-step programs
Unitive Psychotherapy

Additional Information

For more information about psychotherapy and other therapeutic approaches, please click on the linked websites listed below.

Types of Counseling and Psychotherapy

 Therapeutic Effectiveness in Counseling And Psychotherapy

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