How Do I Know What Type of Therapy I Need?

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Our site makes it easy to find the right type of therapy for you. It’s built-in algorithm matches your issues and concerns with a type of therapy and therapist.

'What type of therapy do I need?'

But if you’d like to understand how to choose a type of therapy, here are some useful things to consider.

Short term or long term?

Never tried therapy before? It can feel less intimidating to try a short-term therapy first. You can then try a longer-form afterwards, should you find the experience beneficial. Short-term therapies can also be a good fit if you have a limited budget, or have just a single issue you need help with. This could be a life change, a relationship challenge, or a workplace problem.

Going into the past, or present-focused?

If you are curious about trying therapy but hate the idea of talking too much about the past, you are in luck. Some forms of therapy stick mostly to the present, notably cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and personal coaching. Therapies from the humanistic school of thought can also be more present-focused. If, on the other hand, you are bothered by your childhood and really want to dig deep, look at therapies from the psychodynamic approach.

Many issues, or several issues?

Short term therapies allow enough time for one or a few issues. If you feel you have many issues, then a longer-form of therapy is recommended.

Is it just relationships you want to talk about?

There are several therapies that focus just on the ways you relate to others. We recommend you look at our article on “Therapies that Help With Relationships”.

Do I know my exact issue?

Certain types of therapy are recommended for certain issues. If you are already aware of what your issues are, some time spent researching is worthwhile. Of course look not just for a type of therapy that helps your issue, but also a therapist that has experience with your issues.

What sort of relationship do I want with my therapist?

If you think you could benefit from a very warm, trusting connection with your therapist, consider a therapy from the humanistic approach. Or try one of the types of talk therapy that uses the client-therapist relationship as an important tool in and of itself, such as schema therapy, person-centred therapy, and cognitive analytical therapy (CAT).

Do I want homework, or do I want to do nothing extra between sessions?

If the idea of having homework is not for you, then avoid therapies that ask you to do assignments each week, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT).

Do you think you might have a personality disorder?

Not all therapies work for personality disorders. Do some research around which types of therapy matches your potential disorder – for example, schema therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), and transactional therapy are all recommended for borderline personality disorder (BPD). Better yet, see a psychiatrist first for a diagnosis. He or she will be able to tell you what talk therapies would suit you.

Price range?

It’s better to try a type of therapy you can afford than not to try at all. So if you have a very limited budget, look at the therapists you can afford first, and then decide between the approaches they offer.

Do I want to try more than one sort of therapeutic approach?

Try an ‘integrative therapist’. This means your therapist has trained in several therapeutic approaches instead of just one.

Am I seeking more meaning in life?

Existential therapy combines philosophical approaches with psychology. Or consider transpersonal therapy, which draws from ancient spiritual practises.

Is mindfulness really important to me?

You’ll be happy to know that many therapists now integrate mindfulness into their work with clients. Ask the therapist you are interested in if this is an option they offer. You can also try a therapy that is built around mindfuless, such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

Feel overwhelmed? Try our easy booking tool to find your perfect therapist now.

Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health writer with training in coaching and counselling who also works as a therapy advisor, helping people hone in what therapy is right for them.

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