The main types of psychotherapy


Which direction of psychotherapy to choose? How are they different and which is better? These questions are asked by any person who decides to go with their problems to a specialist. We have compiled a small guide that will help you get an idea of ​​​​the main types of psychotherapy.


Founder: Sigmund Freud, Austria (1856–1939)

What is this? A system of methods by which you can dive into the unconscious, study it in order to help a person understand the cause of internal conflicts that arose as a result of childhood experiences, and thereby save him from neurotic problems.

How does this happen? The main thing in the psychotherapeutic process is the transformation of the unconscious into the conscious through the methods of free association, the interpretation of dreams, the analysis of erroneous actions … During the session, the patient lies on the couch, says everything that comes to mind, even what seems insignificant, ridiculous, painful, indecent . The analyst (sitting at the couch, the patient does not see him), interpreting the hidden meaning of words, deeds, dreams and fantasies, tries to unravel the tangle of free associations in search of the main problem. This is a long and strictly regulated form of psychotherapy. Psychoanalysis takes place 3-5 times a week for 3-6 years.

About it: Z. Freud “Psychopathology of everyday life”; “Introduction to Psychoanalysis” (Peter, 2005, 2004); “An Anthology of Contemporary Psychoanalysis”. Ed. A. Zhibo and A. Rossokhina (St. Petersburg, 2005).

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Analytical psychology

Founder: Carl Jung, Switzerland (1875–1961)

What is this? A holistic approach to psychotherapy and self-knowledge based on the study of unconscious complexes and archetypes. Analysis frees the vital energy of a person from the power of complexes, directs it to overcome psychological problems and develop the personality.

How does this happen? The analyst discusses with the patient his experiences in the language of images, symbols and metaphors. Methods of active imagination, free association and drawing, analytical sand psychotherapy are used. Meetings are held 1-3 times a week for 1-3 years.

About it: K. Jung “Memories, dreams, reflections” (Air Land, 1994); The Cambridge Guide to Analytical Psychology (Dobrosvet, 2000).

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Founder: Jacob Moreno, Romania (1889–1974)

What is this? The study of life situations and conflicts in action, with the help of acting techniques. The purpose of psychodrama is to teach a person to solve personal problems by playing out their fantasies, conflicts and fears.

How does this happen? In a safe therapeutic environment, significant situations from a person’s life are played out with the help of a psychotherapist and other group members. Role-playing game allows you to feel emotions, confront deep conflicts, perform actions that are impossible in real life. Historically, psychodrama is the first form of group psychotherapy. Duration – from one session to 2-3 years of weekly meetings. The optimal duration of one meeting is 2,5 hours.

About it: “Psychodrama: Inspiration and Technique”. Ed. P. Holmes and M. Karp (Klass, 2000); P. Kellerman “Psychodrama close-up. Analysis of therapeutic mechanisms” (Klass, 1998).

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Gestalt therapy

Founder: Fritz Perls, Germany (1893–1970)

What is this? The study of man as an integral system, his bodily, emotional, social and spiritual manifestations. Gestalt therapy helps to gain a holistic view of oneself (gestalt) and begin to live not in the world of the past and fantasies, but “here and now”.

How does this happen? With the support of the therapist, the client works with what is going through and feeling now. Performing the exercises, he lives through his internal conflicts, analyzes emotions and physical sensations, learns to be aware of “body language”, the intonation of his voice and even the movements of his hands and eyes … As a result, he achieves awareness of his own “I”, learns to be responsible for his feelings and actions . The technique combines elements of the psychoanalytic (translating unconscious feelings into consciousness) and the humanistic approach (emphasis on “agreement with oneself”). The duration of therapy is at least 6 months of weekly meetings.

About it: F. Perls “The Practice of Gestalt Therapy”, “Ego, Hunger and Aggression” (IOI, 1993, Meaning, 2005); S. Ginger “Gestalt: The Art of Contact” (Per Se, 2002).

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Existential Analysis

Founders: Ludwig Binswanger, Switzerland (1881–1966), Viktor Frankl, Austria (1905–1997), Alfried Lenglet, Austria (b. 1951)

What is this? Psychotherapeutic direction, which is based on the ideas of the philosophy of existentialism. Its initial concept is “existence”, or “real”, good life. A life in which a person copes with difficulties, realizes his own attitudes, which he lives freely and responsibly, in which he sees meaning.

How does this happen? The existential therapist does not simply use techniques. His work is an open dialogue with the client. The style of communication, the depth of the topics and issues discussed leave a person with the feeling that he is understood – not only professionally, but also humanly. During therapy, the client learns to ask himself meaningful questions, to pay attention to what gives rise to a sense of agreement with his own life, no matter how difficult it may be. The duration of therapy is from 3–6 consultations to several years.

About it: A. Langle “A Life Filled with Meaning” (Genesis, 2003); V. Frankl “Man in search of meaning” (Progress, 1990); I. Yalom “Existential Psychotherapy” (Klass, 1999).

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Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Founders: Richard Bandler USA (b. 1940), John Grinder USA (b. 1949)

What is this? NLP is a communication technique aimed at changing habitual patterns of interaction, gaining confidence in life, and optimizing creativity.

How does this happen? The NLP technique does not deal with content, but with process. In the course of group or individual training in behavior strategies, the client analyzes his own experience and models effective communication step by step. Classes – from several weeks to 2 years.

About it: R. Bandler, D. Grinder “From frogs to princes. Introductory NLP Training Course (Flinta, 2000).

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Family Psychotherapy

Founders: Mara Selvini Palazzoli Italy (1916-1999), Murray Bowen USA (1913-1990), Virginia Satir USA (1916-1988), Carl Whitaker USA (1912-1995)

What is this? Modern family therapy includes several approaches; common for all – work not with one person, but with the family as a whole. The actions and intentions of people in this therapy are not perceived as individual manifestations, but as a consequence of the laws and rules of the family system.

How does this happen? Various methods are used, among them a genogram – a “diagram” of a family drawn from the words of clients, reflecting the births, deaths, marriages and divorces of its members. In the process of compiling it, the source of problems is often discovered, forcing family members to behave in a certain way. Usually meetings of the family therapist and clients take place once a week and last for several months.

About it: K. Whitaker “Midnight Reflections of a Family Therapist” (Klass, 1998); M. Bowen “Theory of family systems” (Cogito-Center, 2005); A. Varga “Systemic Family Psychotherapy” (Speech, 2001).

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Client Centered Therapy

Founder: Carl Rogers, USA (1902–1987)

What is this? The most popular system of psychotherapeutic work in the world (after psychoanalysis). It is based on the belief that a person, asking for help, is able to determine the causes himself and find a way to solve his problems – only the support of a psychotherapist is needed. The name of the method emphasizes that it is the client who makes the guiding changes.

How does this happen? The therapy takes the form of a dialogue that is established between the client and the therapist. The most important thing in it is an emotional atmosphere of trust, respect and nonjudgmental understanding. It allows the client to feel that he is accepted for who he is; he can talk about anything without fear of judgment or disapproval. Given that the person himself determines whether he has achieved the desired goals, therapy can be stopped at any time or a decision can be made to continue it. Positive changes occur already in the first sessions, deeper ones are possible after 10-15 meetings.

About it: K. Rogers “Client-centered psychotherapy. Theory, modern practice and application” (Eksmo-press, 2002).

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Erickson hypnosis

Founder: Milton Erickson, USA (1901-1980)

What is this? Ericksonian hypnosis uses a person’s ability to involuntary hypnotic trance – the state of the psyche in which it is most open and ready for positive changes. This is a “soft”, non-directive hypnosis, in which the person remains awake.

How does this happen? The psychotherapist does not resort to direct suggestion, but uses metaphors, parables, fairy tales – and the unconscious itself finds its way to the right solution. The effect can come after the first session, sometimes it takes several months of work.

About it: M. Erickson, E. Rossi “The Man from February” (Klass, 1995).

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Transactional analysis

Founder: Eric Bern, Canada (1910–1970)

What is this? A psychotherapeutic direction based on the theory of the three states of our “I” – children’s, adult and parental, as well as the influence of a state unconsciously chosen by a person on interaction with other people. The goal of therapy is for the client to become aware of the principles of his behavior and take it under his adult control.

How does this happen? The therapist helps to determine which aspect of our “I” is involved in a particular situation, as well as to understand what the unconscious scenario of our life is in general. As a result of this work stereotypes of behavior change. The therapy uses elements of psychodrama, role-playing, family modeling. This type of therapy is effective in group work; its duration depends on the desire of the client.

About it: E. Bern “Games that people play …”, “What do you say after you said” hello “(FAIR, 2001; Ripol classic, 2004).

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Body Oriented Therapy

Founders: Wilhelm Reich, Austria (1897–1957); Alexander Lowen, USA (b. 1910)

What is this? The method is based on the use of special physical exercises in combination with a psychological analysis of bodily sensations and emotional reactions of a person. It is based on the position of W. Reich that all traumatic experiences of the past remain in our body in the form of “muscle clamps”.

How does this happen? The problems of patients are considered in connection with the peculiarities of the functioning of their body. The task of a person performing exercises is to understand his body, to realize the bodily manifestations of his needs, desires, feelings. Cognition and work of the body change life attitudes, give a feeling of the fullness of life. Classes are held individually and in a group.

About it: A. Lowen “Physical Dynamics of Character Structure” (PANI, 1996); M. Sandomiersky “Psychosomatics and Body Psychotherapy” (Klass, 2005).

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