8 Types of Therapy We Don't Talk About
Whether you live with a diagnosable mental illness or not, as a human with human needs, therapy can be a great tool. To some people, though, therapy still exclusively means lying on an old-fashioned couch and talking to a person with a notepad. While therapy can look like this (although, does anyone lie on a couch anymore?), it doesn’t have to. There are so many types of therapy crafted for different people with different needs — and if you think therapy is “not for you,” it could be because you haven’t explored the possibilities.
That’s why we asked our mental health community to share with us types of therapy we don’t talk about enough. Of course, considering the mess that is health insurance and the shortage of mental health providers, trying a new type of therapy can be easier said than done. But we hope knowing the possibilities can get you inspired. You deserve support for your mental well-being — whatever that looks like for you.
Also, it’s important to note that none of these types of therapy are magic “cures,” and many may complement a medication or mental health treatment plan you’re already following. Consult a doctor before ditching prescribed medication, and consult with a trusted member of your mental health team if you’re wondering if trying a new type of therapy is for you.
Without further ado, here are some types of therapy we don’t talk about:
1. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is a cognitive behavioral treatment originally created to help people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) — but anyone trying to improve their relationship with themselves and/or others could benefit from it. DBT is all about learning skills, and if you take a DBT course, the four modules in skills training are: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Interpersonal Effectiveness and Emotion Regulation. To find out more, head here.
Recommended for: people with borderline personality disorder, people who have trouble regulating their emotions, or anyone who wants to work reducing impulsive or destructive behavior.
“I agree with so many who have already said DBT! The combination of learning the skills in a group setting and then working through your daily life with the therapist is amazing.” — Megan G.
2. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
According to the EMDR Institute, “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories.” Working with a therapist, you target different traumatic memories, and through tracking eye movements, attempt to neutralize the emotions attached to the memory. This typically involves doing multiple sessions. To learn more, head here.
Recommended for: people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or anyone who’s struggling with a traumatic memory.
“Therapies that target trauma such as EMDR . They are so important and more psychologists need to invest in the training required to perform these interventions. We live in a traumatized world, the effects of trauma need to be addressed as early as possible.” — Jennifer A.
3. Group Therapy
Group therapy is when one therapist works with multiple people at once. This way, people can connect to others who’ve been through similar experiences, and benefit from hearing how others have coped with their challenges. Group therapy can cover a wide array of topics (addiction, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.). You can usually find them in locations like churches and community centers, but they may also be available at hospitals and private practices.
Recommended for: anyone who feels alone or who craves a community of people who “get it.”
“Group therapy is underrated. Support groups are hard to come by and a well-trained mediator will step in when the training kicks in.” — Patrick H.
4. Art Therapy
Art therapy uses art and creative expression to help people work through tough emotions, resolve conflicts and enhance social skills. The American Art Therapy Association says, “Through integrative methods, art therapy engages the mind, body and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal articulation alone.” If you have a hard time finding words, art therapy might be a great way to help express what you’ve been through and how you feel. For more information, head here.
Recommended for: anyone who has a hard time expressing their emotions or who thinks about problems in a more visual way. (You don’t need to be an artist!)
“Art therapy. It really does help. It teaches easy-to-use coping techniques. It helps expression. It also starts conversations about feelings that may not have been brought up before.” — Kayla C.
5. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)
Considered the “gold standard” for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), therapists who practice exposure and response prevention (ERP) expose their patients to their triggers (for people with OCD, this usually means whatever triggers fear and intrusive thoughts), and then helps them cope with that fear without completing a compulsion (response prevention). This process helps your brain “unlearn” the compulsions you’ve developed to deal with your fear. Exposure therapy can help people who live with specific phobias as well. To learn more, head here.
Recommended for: people with obsessive-compulsive disorder or anyone struggling with fears and phobias attached to specific situations or things.
“Exposure therapy. After a month of doing it intensively, my OCD symptoms are in remission and I’ve been able to live (somewhat) comfortably without those symptoms in my way every day. It’s very scary, but it saved my life. Many of my suicide attempts happened because my OCD rituals got out of control, and when they went wrong my anxiety would skyrocket, and I would become wildly suicidal. Knowing I won’t die from rituals that aren’t completed, or because things aren’t clean the way they should be, seems simple, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it until exposure therapy.” — Katheryn W.
6. Animal-Assisted Therapy
Animal-assisted therapy is a therapeutic intervention that incorporates animals into treatment. This includes dogs, cats, horses, birds and even pigs. According to Psychology Today, “Animals can provide a sense of calm, comfort, or safety and divert attention away from a stressful situation and toward one that provides pleasure. Advocates of animal-assisted therapy say that developing a bond with an animal can help people develop a better sense of self-worth and trust, stabilize their emotions, and improve their communication, self-regulation, and socialization skills.” Learn more here.
Recommended for: anyone who may find the presence of an animal soothing, or someone who could benefit from more connection.
“Animal therapy (equine, dogs, bunnies, etc). This type of therapy has been used in rehab clinics and for children who have a difficult time opening up, but if I went into a therapist’s office and could hold a cat or bunny or even a dog, it would be less stressful and less ‘clinical’ — enough to allow me to open some of my mental barriers.” — Tazz M.
7. Schema Therapy
If you took a psychology course, you might be familiar with the word “schema” — a cognitive framework that helps us organize and interpret information in our lives. Using this same concept, schema therapy helps individuals identify the thought and behavior patterns that contribute to their poor mental health or unhappiness. Many of these thought patterns and behaviors begin in childhood. Schema therapy helps an individual identity the source of these patterns, and gives them skills to constructively deconstruct them and challenge them. Read more about schema therapy here.
Recommended for: people who’ve experienced childhood trauma, anyone who finds themselves stuck in negative thought patterns or behaviors.
“Schema therapy. It addresses the maladaptive core beliefs of BPD. I find DBT only allows you to fit in to society and function day-to-day. It doesn’t get to the core — that’s why I like schema therapy” — Maree M.
8. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) uses mindfulness to help people live with life’s challenges and uncertainties. According to Good Therapy, a big part of ACT is empowering people to “behave in ways consistent with [their] personal values while developing psychological flexibility.” This involves accepting thoughts as they come, and not placing judgments on unwanted thoughts or feelings.
Recommended for: anyone with a busy mind who’s interested in mindfulness and meditation.
“ACT. I found it helped so much. I’d never heard of it before when my therapist brought it up.” — Steph M.
What did we miss? Tell us in the comments below.