Types of Psychotherapy

There are many different forms of treatment for emotional problems.                    

Psychotherapy is a general term covering various forms of verbal psychological intervention.  Solid, in-depth training in the basic principles of general psychology, human learning, social psychology, clinical psychology, abnormal psychology, child development and personality theory are required in order to apply psychotherapeutic treatment methods effectively.

Psychotherapy can involve the uncovering of unconscious conflicts; it can involve other methods of increasing insight; it can involve emotional support, emotional catharsis, correction of unrealistic thinking, improved problem solving skills, improved communication skills, insight into interpersonal relationships, hypnosis and other treatment modalities.

Cognitive therapy is a form of treatment which focuses upon the development of new ways of perceiving or thinking about problems as a means of alleviating the symptoms.

Behavioral therapy focuses upon the application of certain principles of learning theory in order to create favorable changes.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT is a form of therapy that combines elements of both of these therapeutic approaches.

Psychoanalysis involves the application of certain Freudian concepts such as free association, dream interpretation, the unconscious, resistance and transference as a method of treatment. There are many subcategories of psychoanalysis including Adlerian, which emphasizes the importance of birth order and sibling rivalry,  Jungian, which emphasizes symbols, the “collective unconscious,” and repressed masculinity and femininity, and many others.

Psychotropic medication is a treatment method favored by many psychiatrists.  These medications can be grouped into such categories as anti-depressants (such as Prozac), anti-anxiety, or tranquilizers (such as Xanax, Valium and Ativan), and anti-psychotic drugs, which are useful for patients who suffer from confused and unrealistic thinking.  Medications are sometimes used as the only form of treatment by psychiatrists. 

Some of these tranquilizers and anti-depressants  have become the most widely prescribed of all medications and are enormously profitable for the pharmaceutical industry. Recently new laws have been passed which allow the pharmaceutical industry to advertise prescription drugs directly to the consumer. The advertisements often describe emotional problems as a “chemical imbalance” and they are highly effective, resulting in a greatly expanded use of such medications. They are sometimes overused, or used inappropriately because of the heavy advertising and because people may regard them as an easy way to solve their personal problems. If you would like to get more information about psychotropic drugs, these are some links to Medication Information available online: Consumer Oriented Drug InformationNational Institute of Health Medline Plus Drugs.com,  RxList,  Drug Info Net.  These links are taken from a list of Internet Mental Health Resources compiled by Kenneth P. Drude, Ph.D. Dr. Drude is a psychologist who has a passion for providing access to low or no cost information to the public in the field of psychology.  

Although many popular books have been written about specific forms of psychotherapy, surveys show that very few psychologists or other mental health professionals follow a singular method of psychotherapeutic treatment. Ninety-five percent of practicing psychologists identify their treatment approach as eclectic, meaning that they make use of a variety of forms of psychotherapy, depending on the nature of the problem and the needs of the particular patient.

There is a good reason for the difference between what most psychologists actually do, and the impression you might get about psychotherapy from reading a book.   A best seller in this field must confine itself to a single, clearly identified, and oversimplified description of one psychotherapeutic theory and/or method.  Unfortunately, it is unlikely to sell unless it makes unrealistic statements about the universality and effectiveness of this particular treatment approach for all types of problems. This can be very misleading to the general public. A book describing the complexities of psychotherapeutic treatment as it is actually practiced would be too complicated, lengthy, technical and boring to get on a best seller list!