People often bandy around words such as CBT, psychodynamic therapy or exposure therapy. If these terms leave you confused and puzzled, you’re not alone. Here is list of commonly used terms and what they mean.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)
This is a short-term structured therapy originally developed by Aaron Beck, which uses active collaboration between patient and therapist to reach the therapeutic goals. This approach is based on the theory that feelings and behaviour are controlled by how one thinks and perceives one's world.
In CBT, discussions between the patient and the therapist are usually focused on the difficulties and successes the patient is having at the present time, and skills the patient needs to learn. The therapy is also focused on identifying and challenging negative thought processes and beliefs.
This form of therapy is particularly helpful for people with anxiety disorders. Treatment is relatively short, lasting up to 25 sessions.
A form of CBT commonly used with people suffering from phobias. The therapist gradually exposes patients to what frightens them and helps them cope with their fears.
Psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapy
Various forms of talk therapy developed by Freud, Kohut, Jacobson and Abraham, all based on older, traditional Freudian therapies. These strictly talk therapies are wide-ranging but usually have three things in common. They focus on the unconscious (e.g. conflicts), resistance (e.g. difficulty in acknowledging a feeling) and on the interpersonal therapeutic relationship (e.g. as a place to learn to trust). Their aim is to help you recognise how unconscious life influences your behaviour and perceptions of yourselves and others. Successful therapies lead to reduced symptoms, a greater sense of self acceptance, improved relationships and greater emotional maturity. Psychoanalytic therapies can be structured into short-term interventions (e.g. 18 weekly sessions focused on a difficulty like avoiding asking your partner to marry) or they may take the form of much deeper open-ended work with multiple sessions per week. How the therapy is structured will reflect the aims of the client and the therapist's unique training.
The form this takes can vary widely. From having very active trained leaders, to being led by fellow group members, group therapy is as individual as the group. They can be supportive, educational, deal with mixed problems, or specialise in very specific problems. They can be used alone or together with individual therapy. The advantages are that they can often be more affordable than individual therapy, and can serve as a place to work on interpersonal problems, practice communication skills, and deal with social anxiety.
Play therapy is a technique used for establishing communication and resolving problems with young children.
Family therapy involves discussions and problem-solving sessions with every member of a family, sometimes with the entire group, sometimes with individuals. It is helpful in identifying negative interactions within a family and the role of the entire family in maintaining the patient’s symptoms.
Couple therapy aims to develop a more rewarding relationship; and minimise problems through understanding how individual conflicts get expressed in the couple's interactions.
(Health24, updated June 2010)
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