What are the Different Approaches to Therapy?

by Harley Therapy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Modern counselling and psychotherapy platforms offer a vast array of therapies to choose from. It can help to understand that each type of therapy falls under a school of thought, or 'psychotherapeutic approach'. The three main popular approaches are psychodynamic, humanistic, and cognitive.

So what is the difference that you need to know between these approaches?

The psychodynamic approach focuses on our past experiences.

Psychodynamic therapies believe that you can find answers to your present issues and challenges by looking to your childhood. Your experiences growing up inform the ways you now think and act. How can you resolve old issues and experiences, so that you are free to be more yourself? 

The humanistic approach focuses on our human potential.

Humanistic therapies are not interested in finding what is 'wrong' with you. Instead, the focus is on helping you identify and use your inner resources. While humanistic therapies will consider your past to understand the patterns that hold you back, the main focus is on the present. How can you understand yourself and your own potential, and then take responsibility for creating a life that feels good? 

The cognitive approach focuses on the ways we think.

Cognitive therapies believe in solving problems. They look at the connection between the ways you think, and the ways you end up behaving. By learning to recognise and manage your thoughts, you can ultimately change the ways you feel. Many cognitive therapies are present and future-focussed. How can you change your ways of thinking and behaving so that you can reach the future you desire? 

What about 'third wave therapies'? This is the name applied to a growing movement in therapy that could be said to focus on ways of being.

Third wave therapies are less interested in what you think and feel, and more interested on how you relate to what you think and feel. The emphasis is on helping you find processes that lead to greater wellbeing. Tools used can include mindfulness, visualisation, self-awareness, and acceptance. How can you adjust your perspective so that you feel more at ease with yourself and the world?

Feel even more torn about what type of therapy is right for you? You can always try one type, and if it doesn't work for you, try another. Or consider an integrative therapist, who will be trained in several approaches. Our built-in tool also helps, guiding you to a type that matches your issues and goals.

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