So what’s the deal with the different types of therapeutic approaches? It can sometimes become a bit confusing when looking for the right counselor or psychologist. After all, do the various approaches offer the same treatment outcomes for any mental health issue? Does therapy for children vary from therapy for adults? How about this one? Is the same therapeutic approach used when treating conduct disorders, ADHD, or a mood disorder? The complete answer may be a bit complex though the simple answer is that one size does not fit all when it comes to the treatment of mental health issues.
Previous research has uncovered that virtually all types of psychotherapy share certain core features. In short, the clinician takes the role of the healer and presents the client with specific therapeutic approaches. Other research indicates that healing can start to take place as early as when the client decides to make the initial phone call to request an appointment. Feeling validated can definitely be therapeutic, regardless of the approach.
In my work, I have taken an integrative approach. That is, while I subscribe to cognitive behavior therapy as a primary approach, I have found that specific concerns may arise that, for example, are tied to issues of earlier life experiences. This may require pulling from other approaches to be able to address specific issues.
In my view, inquiring about the specific therapeutic approaches that will be used when researching for the right counselor or psychologist is recommended. For example, I have worked with individuals, primarily younger populations that present symptoms closely associated with ADHD and have engaged in talk therapy to address deficits with certain executive functions. As it turns out, the research literature indicates that behavior therapy is the most research validated approach for this neurodevelopmental condition. This of course, is just one example, but the same holds true for other diagnosis such as depression and anxiety. By the way, cognitive behavior therapy is found to be the most evidence based therapy for such conditions.
So what is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)? CBT is the merging of cognitive therapy and behavior therapy. “Behavior therapy focuses on learned behavior that arises from responses to an individual’s environment. The target of these therapies is the unlearning of problematic behavior. Cognitive therapies, on the other hand, focus on an individual’s beliefs about the self, the world, and the future. The sources of pathology, and therefore the targets of therapy, are thoughts-maladaptive cognitions-that are frequently automatic and ingrained. Cognitive-behavior therapies link these two approaches by targeting both problematic behaviors and maladaptive cognitions” (Messer & Gorman 2011).
Yes, I agree that talk therapy is a very powerful and research validated approach. I also utilize talk therapy in many instances as part of my therapeutic work. However, if an individual’s brain has engaged in irrational thinking throughout the years and has reached a point to where it has now become conditioned to experience anxiety or depression, it may well be that only trying to talk your way out of something that has been reinforced for an extended amount of time may not get you very far.
The morale of the story is that engaging in psychological treatment should be taken serious and one in which the client should be very proactive in making sure that he or she is getting what he/she needs.