There are many therapeutic techniques that fall under the umbrella of psychotherapy. While a therapist might find that one technique best suits an individual, generally the therapist will use a variety of techniques with each patient, depending on the problems being experienced by that person.
Behavior therapy focuses on changing the unwanted and self-defeating behavior patterns of the individual through conditioning. In essence, this technique involves the removal of undesirable habits and replacing that behavior with more satisfying and rewarding behavior. Behavior therapy can help an individual modify the stress response or overcome a crippling phobia.
Cognitive therapy looks at the underlying thought patterns and core beliefs behind unwanted feelings and emotions. The basic idea is that our thoughts about a situation are what create our emotions regarding that situation, and often our thoughts are based on irrational or troublesome core beliefs that we might not even be consciously aware of. An example would be a perfectionist who is suffering from anxiety because of all the pressure they put on themselves. Cognitive therapy can help this person see that they are too rigid in their thinking and that it is irrational to expect to be perfect at all times.
Cognitive-Behavioral therapy (CBT) is a combination of the above techniques and is the most popular therapy for dealing with depression and anxiety. The goal here is to simultaneously modify thoughts and behaviors to help the individual not only get beyond the negative core beliefs that are holding them back, but also to change the behavior patterns they have developed in response to those thought patterns. It is often our troublesome behavior that first brings us to therapy, and then, once the therapist has somewhat modified the behavior, the patient is in the position to work on changing the negative thoughts that create the unwanted behavior in the first place.
Gestalt therapy is based on the philosophy of existentialism and phenomenology; basically, it is essential to understand who we are in relation to all the things around us, and we must study and observe what is going on in the present moment in order to truly know ourselves. The saying, “Man is not an island unto himself,” would describe the Gestalt view of human understanding. Everything is interrelated, and one cannot understand themselves without simultaneously understanding the world around them at this time.
With interpersonal therapy, or IPT, the focus is on improving relationship skills such as communication and improving the supporting relationships in the depressed or anxious person’s life. By learning how to deal with loved ones in a more productive and less combative way, the individual can improve these relationships and reduce conflicts that might be contributing to their feelings of depression or anxiety.
Psychoanalysts guide the patient on a journey through their unconscious in order to uncover and understand internal conflicts that may be motivating emotional disturbances. Together, the therapist and client look at childhood problems, unconscious motivations, unresolved conflicts, and destructive behavior patterns to gain self-awareness and resolution. Freud is the father of psychoanalysis, but there are different schools of thought on how this technique should be used including the philosophies of Jung, Adler, Klein, and Sullivan.
There are different settings in which therapy can be performed. Individual therapy is just that—therapy sessions that are one-on-one between the therapist and the client. If a person dealing with depression or anxiety decides to seek therapy in a group setting, individual therapy may still be important as it gives that person the opportunity to speak in a safe environment. Family therapy and couples therapy involve working together as a family unit to help understand and deal with the problems within the family that are contributing to the problems of the depressed or anxious member. Often there are patterns at play within the family dynamic which deeply affect the recovery of one or more members, and this will be uncovered through therapy performed as a group. Group therapy brings together several people experiencing the same disorder so that they may share experiences and break the isolation so often associated with depression and anxiety.