A guide to different types of therapy

Therapy is not just for mental health issues, it can help with support, education and guidance. It can provide you with the resources to learn and practice new ways of coping.

If you are thinking about trying therapy, you may have noticed that there are many different types. Some approaches can help with a range of issues, while others are better for specific conditions.


Types of therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT is a therapy that balances acceptance and mindfulness with change strategies. ACT teaches people to be more flexible and accepting with their thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. The goal is to define values and meaning in life to become more functional in everyday living. Therapists will work with individuals to help identify what therapeutic strategies make life more workable, livable, and healthy.

Alternative therapy

A health treatment that is not classified as a standard Western medical practice is referred to as "alternative," or "complementary,” or “integrative.” Alternative therapy encompasses a variety of disciplines that includes everything from your diet and exercise to your mental conditioning and your lifestyle. Examples of alternative therapies include herbal remedies, acupuncture, reflexology, exercise, meditation, massage, guided imagery and yoga.

Behavior therapy

Behavioral therapy looks at how behaviors started and why they continue. Behavior therapy identifies cues for behavior and outcomes of behavior.  Behavior therapy aims to make changes to the environment, including other people’s responses, that leads to behavior change.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is similar to behavioral therapy, but it also addresses negative thinking and thinking that interferes with good mental health. The idea behind CBT is that certain feelings or beliefs you have about yourself or situations in your life can lead to distress. This distress may contribute to mental health issues, occur alongside them, or develop as a complication of other mental health issues.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that helps individuals develop healthy coping skills.  Like CBT, it helps change negative thought patterns and behaviors into healthy behaviors with positive outcomes. This involves balancing validation and acceptance with helping people see the need to change. DBT teaches a set of healthy coping skills.

Evidence-based therapy

Evidence-based therapy (EBT), also sometimes more broadly referred to as Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) to encompass more fields of medicine, is any therapy based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence.

Humanistic therapy

Humanistic therapy looks at how an individual’s worldview affects the choices they make, especially choices that cause distress. It is based on the belief that the individual understands their experiences and needs the best. Humanistic therapists work to help individuals better understand what they are experiencing, offering guidance and support without interpreting their feelings for them.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational interviewing is an evidence-based treatment. It is used in various programs to inspire self-motivation. Mental health professionals use MI techniques to help people identify their own reasons for changing their behavior. People who figure out for themselves why they need to change are more motivated to change than people who are told by others that they need to change.


Medical treatment by means of medications.

Psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy developed from psychoanalysis. In psychoanalysis, you can expect to talk about anything on your mind to uncover patterns in thoughts or behavior that might be contributing to distress. It’s also common to talk about your childhood and past, along with recurring dreams or fantasies you might have.


Levels of care

Inpatient treatment

The highest level of mental healthcare, inpatient treatment features 24/7 monitoring and emergency care. While in inpatient care, patients reside on-campus in a secure hospital facility until they are medically stable and can safely transition into lower levels of programming. Inpatient services typically offer care for a wide range of mental health concerns, including eating disorders, depression and mood disorders, withdrawal management and general mental health. Services may include many of the types of therapy described above.

Residential treatment

Residential treatment offers many of the same features as inpatient but is less intensive.  Nursing services are not 24/7 and psychiatric services are once a week instead of daily.

Partial Hospital Program (PHP)

PHP meets 5-7 days per week for 5-9 hours per day.  PHP is used for many of the same reasons as inpatient and residential but is less intensive.  PHP includes at least once a week psychiatric checks and at least 2 more nursing checks per week. 

Intensive Outpatient Care (IOP)

IOP care offers convenient daytime or evening options for making minor adjustments in mental health skills and prolonging recovery. Available for a range of mental health concerns, this type of care allows patients to build support networks and practice techniques outside of care.


The lowest level of care, outpatient treatment is often once a week or every two weeks using the types of therapy described above

Telepsychiatry or telemedicine

Telepsychiatry, or telemedicine, allows patients to receive treatment from a psychiatrist through a video conference program, similar to Skype or FaceTime, but with heightened security.


Types of providers

Certified Employee Assistance Professional (C.E.A.P.)

A CEAP has the work experience and/or education for certification eligibility and has passed the Employee Assistance Certification Commission (E.A.C.C.) exam, of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA). They may be licensed or have a degree in another field as well, such as psychiatry, psychology, counseling or social work. They may practice at the employee's work site or at another location and help employees identify issues or concerns and find solutions to address them successfully. CEAPs cannot prescribe medicines or admit people to a hospital. 

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

A Clinical Nurse Specialist is a licensed Registered Nurse (R.N.) with a graduate degree in nursing. The Clinical Nurse Specialist has advanced training in the areas of health assessment, pathophysiology or neurophysiology/biophysiology. In the area of psychiatry, the Clinical Nurse Specialist may also be known as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner or Advance Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). The Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner often works closely with a Psychiatrist. Clinical nurse specialists can prescribe medications and, in some cases, admit people to hospitals.

Clinical Social Worker

A Clinical Social Worker has a master's or doctoral degree in Social Work (M.S.W., M.S., M.S.S.W., M.A. or A.M. in Social Work). A L.C.S.W. (Licensed Certified Social Worker) after a person's name means that the person is licensed by the state where they offer services. In some states, Clinical Social Workers are licensed as L.I.S.W. (Licensed Independent Social Worker) or L.I.C.S.W. (Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker) or CSW-C (Certified Social Worker-Clinical). Clinical Social Workers may have advanced credentials. The Board Certified Diplomat (BCD) www.abecsw.org or the Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW) are the two nationally recognized advance credentials in Clinical Social Work. 

Clinical Social Workers are highly trained therapists who assess, diagnose, and treat mental and emotional conditions and addictions. Treatment methods include individual, marital, couple, family and group counseling and psychotherapy. A Clinical Social Worker cannot prescribe medicines or admit people to a hospital.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Counselor or Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC)

The Drug and Alcohol Addiction Counselor is state licensed and/or certified to provide direct services. A Drug and Alcohol Addiction Counselor is an addiction-focused professional who helps individuals and families with health and recovery. Drug and Alcohol Addiction Counselors perform many activities including screening, assessment and diagnosis of drug and alcohol issues, management of an individual treatment plan, individual, family, group counseling, education and prevention strategies. LADCs cannot prescribe medicines or admit people to a hospital.

Licensed Professional Counselor (L.P.C.)

A Professional Counselor has a master's, doctoral, or post-doctoral degree in psychology or counseling. The letters L.P.C. (Licensed Professional Counselor), L.C.P.C (Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor), or L.M.H.C. (Licensed Mental Health Counselor) indicate that a person is licensed to provide professional counseling by the state. 

Professional Counselors are trained to provide mental health counseling to individuals, couples, families, and children, including diagnosis, and assessment; psychotherapy; group counseling; and lifestyle and career counseling. A Professional Counselor cannot prescribe medicines or admit a person to a hospital.

Marriage and Family Therapy (L.M.F.T)

Marriage and Family Therapists have graduate training (Master's, Doctoral, or Post-doctoral) in marriage and family therapy with additional clinical experience. The letters M.F.T. (Marriage and Family Therapist), L.M.F.T. (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist), L.C.M.F.T. (Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist), or L.I.M.F.T. (Licensed Independent Marriage and Family Therapist) after a name indicate that the person is licensed to provide marriage and family therapy by the state. Marriage and Family Therapists are trained in psychotherapy and family systems, and treat a wide range of problems, including depression, marital problems, anxiety, individual psychological problems, and child-parent problems. Marriage and Family Therapists cannot prescribe medicines or admit people to a hospital.

Pastoral Counselor

A Pastoral Counselor is a mental health professional with training in both mental health and theology. They typically hold a masters or doctoral degree in Pastoral Counseling, Counseling, Psychology, Social Work or Marriage and Family Therapy. Pastoral Counselors may also have a masters or doctorate degree in theology or divinity. Pastoral Counselors are licensed and/or certified per state requirements according to their mental health training. Pastoral counselors cannot prescribe medicines or admit people to a hospital.


A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor or physician who has completed medical school and a multi-year residency in Psychiatry (treatment of mental illness). Psychiatrists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. As physicians, they are also experts in the use of medications to treat mental disorders as well as treating these conditions with an understanding of the interplay with other medical disorders. As medical experts they also understand how different medications affect each other. They are able to assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological disturbances.

A Psychiatrist uses many forms of therapy to help patients change behaviors or thought patterns, explore the effects of past relationships and experiences on present behaviors to treat troubled relationships. Since Psychiatrists are medical doctors, they are able to determine the need for medical tests and medication to help adjust imbalances in body chemistry that may be part of the mental illness.


A Psychologist is an individual who has completed a doctoral level degree (about 5 years of graduate school resulting in the Ph.D., or Psy.D. degrees). Psychologists have a doctoral degree from an academic or professional college and generally cannot prescribe medication. 

Psychologists that specialize in therapy are called Clinical Psychologists. They have received training in the diagnosis treatment and research of human behavior. They are also skilled in testing and other problems in mental functioning.



Source: healthline.com/health/types-of-therapy#cbt 

(MHC-ER-18978-21 A guide to different types of therapy)