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3 Different Psychotherapy Approaches

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3 Different Psychotherapy Approaches

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a method used to treat a variety of mental illnesses and emotional struggles. Problems that benefit from psychotherapy include: difficulties coping with everyday life, trauma impact, medical illness or loss, and specific mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Under the umbrella term psychotherapy, there are a few different approaches. Some approaches may work better than others depending on the patient’s issues and personal preference. In this blog we are going to dive into three different types of psychotherapy and how these 3 different psychotherapy approaches compare and contrast. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most common and studied approach to psychotherapy. Generally, it involves efforts to change certain thinking and behavioral patterns. It relies on current problems and their solutions rather than digging into a person’s past. The first step in this approach is recognizing specific distortions in thinking that are ultimately creating problems. Then, a therapist will guide a patient to reevaluate these negative thinking patterns in the light of reality. 

The hope is by learning negative thinking patterns, we can reframe how we cope with difficult situations to alleviate resulting psychological problems. Through exercises to unlearn faulty thinking patterns, patients will also gain a better understanding of the behavior and motivation of others, as well as a greater sense of self-confidence. The bottom line is CBT is an extremely effective therapy treatment because it replaces unhelpful, negative thinking and behavioral patterns with realistic, positive, problem-solving skills. This means CBT can, theoretically, help patients learn to deal with their problems in a more long-term way. It is most effective for people dealing with depression, anxiety, OCD, addictions, or chronic pain. 

Interpersonal Therapy – ITP

Interpersonal Therapy, unlike CBT, focuses on an individual’s personal relationship patterns, their capacity for intimacy, and their current relationships. Similar to CBT, ITP is focused on a patient’s current life, not the past. ITP is built on the principle that problems associated with relationships may have a major effect on a person, or ultimately cause a person to experience distress. By evaluating current relationships and relationship standings, therapists are able to identify a specific problem to focus on. For example, someone close to the person seeking treatment may have died, there may be a struggle with a significant other, or the patient may have just gone through a major life change. 

The therapist then emphasizes the interpersonal focus while also assuring the patient that the problems they are facing are temporary and fixable. Taking personal blame away from mental illness or struggle, in order to encourage growth, is a huge part of ITP. Additionally, ITP focuses on changing an individual’s daily environment to improve mental health. Throughout the course of ITP treatment, a therapist equips the patient with better skills to assert their needs and wants in interpersonal encounters, validates their anger encouraging healthy expression of emotions in relation to an interpersonal issue, and becomes the patient’s ally. 

Behavioral Therapy

Applied behavioral therapy differs from both CBT and ITP because it puts no focus on negative patterns or situations. Instead, applied behavioral therapy puts emphasis on positive behavior and activities that are considered pleasant, rewarding, or satisfying. The thought is by rewarding positive behavior and activities, and ignoring negative behaviors, the brain will relearn to become accustomed to focusing on positive behavior. Eventually, the negative tendencies and feelings should decrease. 

Therapy Is a Personal Journey

Therapy methods and their efficacy depend both on specifics of a patient’s issues and a patient’s personal preferences. It may take some time, trial and error to find a therapist and approach that works for you. Chriselda Santos, a licensed psychotherapist and certified life coach, has dedicated her career to perfecting the three approaches to therapy discussed above. She is passionate about finding each client a personalized therapy plan that works best for their self-healing. If you have more questions about the different approaches to psychotherapy, or wish to book an appointment, visit Chriselda’s website