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What are the therapeutic approaches? Which one should I choose?

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The psychotherapeutic theory or approach consists of the following elements: the way of understanding the client and their difficulties, how the process of psychotherapy works and what the therapeutic relationship looks like. Some psychotherapists combine different approaches when others use only one, e.g. psychoanalysis.

According to some sources, there are as many as several hundred different therapeutic approaches, but the American Psychological Association distinguishes only five categories:

  • Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapies. The theories from this category are most often associated with Sigmund Freud, who can be considered ‘the father of modern psychotherapy’. Here the emphasis is put on the influence of early childhood events and their role in shaping the personality. Therapists who use these approaches also focus on unconscious processes (e.g., unexpressed desires, fears, dreams, etc.)
  • Behavioural therapies. The approaches in this category are based on the learning process and its role in changing the problematic behaviour and acquiring a new one that is more conducive.
  • Cognitive theories. In approaches from this category, it is assumed that the most important elements of our well-being are thoughts and beliefs. One of these theories is cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy, which was developed on the basis of the previously described categories (behavioural and cognitive). Work in this approach is based on changing dysfunctional thoughts and behaviours.
  • Humanistic therapies. The basic assumption of the approaches in this category is the belief that realizing one’s potential is the key to well-being. In order to achieve this, we work, among other things, on building subjectivity and identifying our own resources and needs. The most popular humanistic therapies are person-centered therapy, Gestalt therapy, and existential therapy.
  • Integrative therapies. Many psychotherapists combine, i.e., ‘integrate’ different approaches in their work.

I believe that the plethora of different perspectives of understanding the human condition gives us more opportunities to help and support the person who comes to psychotherapy. Typically, therapists develop their own way of working in which they feel comfortable and authentic. Regardless of the approach, the therapist uses in their work, a good therapeutic relationship is particularly important, as well as the person’s motivation to work on themselves.

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