By Kristen Mayne
If you’re thinking about trying therapy, you may have noticed there are many different kinds. To learn about some common types of therapy and who they can help, we spoke to Dr. Deanndra Pimentel. Dr. Pimentel is a registered psychologist and manager of psychological treatment services at Back in Motion.
5 types of therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a short-term approach to therapy that is problem-focused and goal-oriented, says Dr. Pimentel. “It teaches clients techniques to identify, question and change their unhelpful thoughts, attitudes and beliefs. This is done through the use of collaborative goal setting and homework or exercises between treatment sessions”
CBT is the gold standard treatment for anxiety and depression disorders, says Pimentel. However, therapists can tailor it for use with other types of problems such as bipolar disorder and eating disorders.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
“DBT is another treatment modality based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It comes from the idea that bringing together opposite strategies produces better results,” says Dr. Pimentel. For example, maybe you need to accept that your feelings about a bad experience are valid. But at the same time, you need to make changes to manage those feelings and move on. This evidence-based therapy helps people develop healthy ways to deal with stress, regulate their emotions and improve relationships.
“DBT was initially created to treat suicidal behaviour and borderline personality disorder,” says Dr. Pimentel. “But it can also treat people that have a hard time regulating emotions. It can also help people who engage in impulsive behaviors. This includes depression, eating disorder and substance use disorder.”
Standard DBT has four parts, says Dr. Pimentel:
- individual therapy
- group therapy
- phone crisis support (if needed)
- the DBT consultation team – this can include therapists and case managers
“Standard DBT is typically accessed in a community setting such as a hospital or community care centre. However, therapists may use some of the tools from DBT in their practices.”
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MB-CBT)
Dr. Pimentel says MB-CBT is group therapy to treat mood disorders and prevent mood relapse. It helps reduce depression, anxiety and stress by teaching you how to focus on the present. "It focuses on preventing negative thinking spirals,” she says.
Dr. Pimentel says MB-CBT is good for acute or chronic depression or anxiety. She says therapists often deliver this therapy in a group setting. But many bring mindfulness-based techniques into their practices to use alongside other therapies.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR)
EMDR is a fairly new type of therapy. It was created to help with distress from traumatic memories, says Dr. Pimentel. “The theory behind EMDR is that distressing experiences can sometimes be stored improperly in our memory and they need to be processed in order reduce distress.”
During therapy, the therapist leads their client in a set of eye movements from side to side. This occurs while the client is recalling their memory, says Dr. Pimentel. “This helps to process traumatic memories and reduce distress.”
Research has shown that EMDR is effective at treating PTSD and acute stress disorder, says Dr. Pimentel.
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
ACT uses acceptance and mindfulness-based strategies combined with behaviour change strategies to increase psychological flexibility, says Dr. Pimentel. “That’s our ability to deal flexibly with situations as they arise in a more healthy way.”
“Through different exercises, clients learn to deal with thoughts, feelings and physical sensations in a without using avoidance. It helps clients create a more rich and meaningful life through reducing control over thoughts, feelings and sensations.”
Dr. Pimentel says ACT may be a good choice for addressing:
- substance abuse disorder
- medical disorders, like chronic pain
ACT can also be a good alternative to CBT, says Pimentel. “Perhaps CBT didn’t resonate with a client. ACT could then be a good option as it assists clients in viewing their thoughts and feelings from a new perspective. It focuses on reducing their attempts to control them.”
How to find the right therapist
Dr. Pimentel says that while the type of therapy you get is important, two other factors are even more important:
- Evidence-based treatment. “Make sure your therapist is using an evidence-based treatment approach for your particular diagnosis or symptoms. When you get started with a new therapist, ask them what they think your symptoms demonstrate. And what evidence-based treatment is best for your symptom presentation.”
- A good rapport with your therapist. “Research shows that what’s more important than the modality is having a good, solid rapport or fit with your therapist. Having mutual trust in this relationship is important.”
When starting with a therapist, Dr. Pimentel says it’s also important ask what their treatment plan is and how long it’s going to take. This includes proposed goals and methods of therapy.