The world of therapy can be a confusing one. There are many different labels which describe the theoretical focus of a practitioner’s training – they offer a framework for the therapeutic journey and provide a language for the experience. But what will the different approaches be like for you as the client? Here are just a few examples of what is available,
A Psychodynamic approach will focus on the past and look for patterns that are being repeated as an adult.
This model has enjoyed increased popularity in recent years. It is based on the premise that your thoughts, feelings and behaviour are interconnected. It uses a structured approach to deal with negative thoughts and feelings and aims to break vicious patterns/cycles of behaviour. Unlike other therapies, its focus is on current problems rather than underlying or past issues.
It is a particularly useful first step for conditions such as mild depression and anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).
However, it is less suitable for more complex issues and in dealing with the reasons underpinning current difficulties which can lead to relapse.
Eye movement desensitization reprocessing is a specialist treatment particularly powerful in dealing with post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It involves a dual stimulation approach which includes bilateral eye movement, taps or tones. The client is encouraged to recall specific memories and experiences whilst focusing on these external stimuli. It is a structured process which needs to be administered by a qualified mental health professional that has specialised in EMDR.
ACT is a behavioural therapy with a strong existential component. It gets its name from one of its core messages of acceptance of the struggle and a commitment to taking action that is defined by and congruent with personal values. It supports clients to develop psychological skills and to clarify what is important and meaningful to them personally. The aim is to use these uniquely defined values to guide and motivate clients towards life enriching action and goals.
Mindfulness uses techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga as a means of focusing on the present moment. Its roots are based on the Buddhist premise that through becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings we learn to manage them. Practising mindfulness can help with stress, anxiety, depression and addictive behaviours. Many traditional models of therapy are now broadening their scope to include some core principles of mindfulness in their practice.
Gestalt theory looks at an individual as a system which organises and makes sense of its experiences through a combination of conscious and unconscious influences.
A Gestalt therapist will use information from your past and present as well as thoughts expressed moment to moment in the therapeutic relationship, to identify and work with subtle belief patterns.
This approach involves utilising a number of different therapeutic schools of thought: examining developmental issues, here-and-now experiences, inter-generational dynamics and more existential, soulful considerations.
The aim is to work towards an integration of the client’s way of being and a more cohesive sense of who they are. Your therapist will have had first- hand experience of the therapeutic process in order to support you through the challenges.
This approach is based on the principle that emotional wellbeing is strongly linked to satisfactory mutual relationships with others. It looks at the individual’s internal self- relationship and how this influences connections/disconnections with others.
This style of therapy can be particularly helpful when exploring the dynamics of couple relationships, and the interactions between individuals and family/friends/work systems. The dynamic experienced between client and therapist in sessions may also give some insight into what might be occurring in the outside world.
For more details of this specialised area of therapy please see Relationship issues.