What Type of Psychotherapy Is Best for Me?

The first step when thinking about therapy is to understand the different approaches and decide which might be best for you. What kinds of treatments are there? Which one suits me? This article provides an overview of the most common types of therapy to help you understand which is best for you.

Finding the psychotherapy type that is right for you can be daunting. A person is standing in front of three different paths.

Psychotherapy is recommended as a long-term treatment and has been proven to be very helpful for any kind of depression. It also lowers the risk of experiencing a depressive episode again. With a moderate or severe depressive episode, it is best to immediately look for long-term depression treatment, such as a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Don’t be tempted to wait until the symptoms improve on their own. If you think you might be affected by depression, but are not sure how severe it is, you can read about the typical signs of depression and use Moodpath for a free evaluation of your symptoms.

“I Feel Depressed, I Want to Get Professional Help!”

What types of therapy exist? Deciding to seek help and start a psychotherapy is a big step. Depression can drain us of energy and make any type of action feel difficult so it’s great that you’re ready to take action and begin to figure out your options!

The three most common types of therapy are psychoanalysis, depth psychotherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. These approaches differ in the methods used to treat depression and in how the illness is explained. No matter the type of therapy, at the core is the relationship between you and the therapist.

  Psychoanalysis Depth Psychotherapy Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Aim Understand underlying inner conflict or problem Understand underlying inner conflict or problem and apply it to current issues and relationships Identify current behavioral and thinking patterns and change inappropriate strategies 
Cause of disease Unconscious inner conflict from the past Unconscious inner conflict from the past Inappropriately learned behavior and thinking patterns
Treatment Bringing unconscious feelings to consciousness and understanding them Bringing unconscious feelings to consciousness and applying them to present situations Restructuring and relearing appropriate behaviors and ways of thinking, and applying them to present issues
Role of therapist Listening to and interpreting the patient’s descriptions Involved in the process of identifying the conflict and developing strategies to deal with current problems Actively engaging in identifying current problems and training helpful behaviors and ways of thinking
Sessions per week 3-5 2 2

Psychoanalysis (PA)

As you may know Sigmund Freud is the founder of psychoanalysis (PA), the oldest form of therapy. PA deals with underlying emotions and memories that dwell in the subconscious. If we push these (mostly negative) experiences away or deny them, this might prevent us from developing in a healthy way.

When you decide to engage in psychoanalysis, you and your therapist will try to find the causes for your depression. In order to reveal the underlying issues, inner conflicts need to be resolved by talking about them and reliving past experiences from your childhood. The therapist’s role is to provide room for your emotions and experiences. He or she will not talk a lot, but will sometimes provide interpretations of what you’ve described. In psychoanalysis, a cornerstone of the treatment is the relationship between you and the therapist. A common method used in PA is to transfer your past emotions and feelings in relationships, e.g. your parents, on your therapist. By activating your feelings from the past in the present moment, your therapist can help you identify your relationship bonds during the sessions.

For example, during psychotherapy you might discover that you felt guilty towards your mother when you were younger, which prevented you from doing the things you actually wanted to do, resulting in you feeling depressed now, because your feelings of guilt have not been resolved.

The aim of psychoanalysis is to achieve a deeper understanding of your current problems by looking for their backgrounds. Usually these are difficult relationships, experiences and behaviour patterns that we have built up in our childhood and that unconsciously control and affect us to this day. Such an understanding helps us to recognize when and why our difficulties occur and enables us to consciously decide how we want to behave. Because PA explores deeply embedded experiences, psychoanalysis can take several years, often meeting multiple times each week.

Depth Psychology (DP)

As the name already indicates, depth psychotherapy also deals with the underlying causes of current symptoms and emotions. Like psychoanalysis, DP is sometimes referred to as “psychodynamic approach”. The aim of this method is to reveal and understand conflicts from the past that have lodged in the subconscious and have lead to current struggles. Though it is similar in this way to psychoanalysis, the DP therapist is more involved in the process of identifying the conflict as well as developing strategies to help you effectively cope with your current state. Psychoanalysis and Depth Psychotherapy are sometimes referred to as “Psychodynamic Psychotherapy”.

Together with your therapist, in DP you will identify specific goals for your therapy and concentrate more on a conflict in the present, rather than the past. This might be done by applying the subconscious effects of past conflicts to your current relationships and/or conflicts. For example, if your partner leaves you and you’re feeling worthless this might be because your self-esteem is low due to past negative experiences in your relationships. However, the focus lies more on the causes and functions of your feelings and behavior, than on your problematic feelings. Therefore, your current problem will be approached indirectly, as opposed to the more direct approaches in cognitive behavioral therapy approach.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

In cognitive behavioral therapy, the focus will lie on your actual, current thoughts, behaviors, and feelings, and not so much on the causes. Throughout life we have learned different patterns of behavior that we use to solve problems and make decisions every day. However, if we learn inappropriate behaviors, this might result in emotional struggles that can manifest in depression. Therefore, the goal of this type of therapy is to (re-)learn thought and behavioral patterns to cope better with current problems and actively reduce unwanted feelings and habits. In this method, the therapist is actively involved in helping you learn effective and helpful approaches by taking examples from your current life.

In the early part of this therapy, you can expect to explore your depressive symptoms on cognitive, behavioral, and emotional levels—in other words, the ways you think, act, and feel. Another important component of the therapy lies in relearning techniques and methods in thinking and behaving that lead to more positive ways of coping with difficulties. With these learned skills you will ideally be able to deal with challenging situations by yourself once therapy has ended.

For example, you may feel insecure about how to approach people and make new friends, or how to say “no” when too much is asked from you. Then, your therapist will work on techniques, such as role play, to improve your social and communication skills.

Because cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven to successfully treat depression and numerous other mental health disorders, Moodpath is based on the CBT approach. If you are interested in learning more about CBT, as new CBT approaches are developing rapidly, you might find this article helpful.

How to Decide Which Psychotherapy Is Best for Me?

All therapy approaches have advantages and disadvantages for each individual, and only you can decide which type suits you best. Your decision will be based on what your goal is, the ways you understand your problems and perhaps what your insurance allows. No matter the type of therapy you choose, in your first session make sure that you and your therapist get along well and that you feel comfortable with this person. This is the foundation of successful therapy.

If you think therapy could be a good choice for you, resources on Moodpath can help you find therapy options and help guide you in making an appointment. This can be found under “Settings” -> “Therapy options.”

How did you like the article? On a scale of 1 (not so good) to 5 (very good).

1 2 3 4 5

Start today.
No sign-up required.

Download Moodpath for free to help guide your way to emotional well-being.