4 Types of Therapy for Mental Health and Well-Being

A group of young adults discuss the different types of therapy available for mental health and well-being.It is estimated that mental health conditions affect one of every four Americans each year. For this reason, it is important to understand the many different types of therapy, both for individuals searching for a therapist and also for students trying to determine which area of therapy might appeal to them. Therapy helps people face and understand relationship problems, addiction, anger issues, depression and anxiety, spirituality, stress management, self-worth and self-esteem.

Many people don’t realize how many varying levels and areas of therapeutic counseling exist, but understanding the approaches of each area clears a pathway to what’s most appropriate — and ultimately most effective — for individuals.

The four most commonly practiced types of therapy:

  • Cognitive
  • Behavioral
  • Humanistic
  • Integrative/holistic

Cognitive Therapy

A person’s thoughts are the focus of cognitive therapy. An individual who practices cognitive therapy believes that interruptions in a patient’s thought processes, or dysfunctional thinking, can lead to dysfunctional emotional or behavioral reactions.
Therapists work with clients to change their thoughts, which changes how they feel and what they do in reaction to their thoughts.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is an approach that studies learning and its role in how people develop both normal and abnormal behaviors. Ivan Pavlov is an important historical figure in terms of the development of this approach; Pavlov’s dogs developed an association with a dinner bell and being fed.

One technique commonly practiced in behavioral therapy is “desensitizing.” This approach is helpful in many cases, but especially when people have irrational reactions to certain situations. For example, a counselor treating clients with a phobia may expose them repeatedly to the object or situation that causes distress to help them normalize it and become less afraid.

Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy focuses on helping individuals make the right choices, which in turn helps them reach their fullest level of functionality or potential. Important aspects of humanistic therapy include concern and respect for other people. Three types of humanistic therapy include client-centered therapy, Gestalt therapy and existential therapy.

Integrative/Holistic Therapy

Integrative or holistic therapy blends elements from the cognitive, behavioral and humanistic approaches. It is considered alternative or complementary therapy. Practitioners customize their treatment based on individual client needs. They may incorporate hypnosis, heart-centered hypnotherapy/regression therapy, breath therapy, acupuncture, massage, rebirthing breath and guided imagery.

All types of therapists, with the exception of integrative/holistic, require a master’s degree and licensure to practice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual income is $48,520 for mental health counselors and $49,880 for marriage and family therapists. The job outlook is especially bright for both, with 22 percent expected growth for mental health counselors and 14 percent expected growth for marriage & family therapists by 2031.

Many integrative/holistic practitioners are self-employed and do not pursue traditional educational routes. Instead, they complete holistic health programs and obtain certification in one or more areas of holistic health.