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Therapy techniques and models

There are many different approaches to psychotherapy. Use of one method or another depends on the psychologist's or therapist's training, style and personality. Some psychologists use one approach with all patients, others are eclectic, and some tailor their approach based on particular patients' needs, symptoms and personality.


Cognitive behavioural therapy is based on the concept that our emotions and actions are largely influenced by our thoughts. Research has shown that people tend to think unhelpful thoughts when they are feeling anxious or depressed. CBT can teach you techniques and strategies to modify unhelpful thoughts and behaviours so that you can better manage your mood.


Cognitive Analytic Therapy focuses on discovering how problems have evolved and understanding of the patterns of maladaptive behaviours (procedures) devised to cope with them may be ineffective. Problems are understood in the context of peoples personal histories and life experiences. The model emphasises collaborative work with the client, and the aim of the therapy is to enable the client to recognise these patterns, understand their origins, and subsequently to learn alternative strategies in order to cope better. CAT is safe and user friendly as it is applicable within a variety of settings, and across a range of disorders and difficulties including depression, anxiety, personal and relationship problems.

Website Links:
ACAT: Association for Cognitive Analytic Therapy


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a comprehensive, integrative psychotherapy approach pioneered by Dr. Francine Shapiro. EMDR integrates elements of effective psychodynamic, imaginal exposure, cognitive therapy, interpersonal, experiential, physiological and somatic therapies in structured protocols that are designed to maximize treatment effects. Therapists and researchers worldwide have used her findings to develop EMDR, which uses rapid eye movements to relieve chronic distress. Recognised worldwide, it is a successful non-drug, non-hypnosis procedure. This treatment is also recommended by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence).

EMDR helps complete our information processing, and can replace “negative, maladaptive“ associations of the memory with “positive, adaptive” associations.

Website Links:
EMDR Europe: Training & Consultancy
EMDR Institute Inc.


Systemic approaches understand problems in a contextual framework and focus on understanding and shifting the current dynamics of relationships, families, and even work settings. The roles and behaviors that people take on in a particular family or context are understood to be determined by the unspoken rules of that system and interaction among its members. Change in any part of the family system or group is the route to changing symptoms and dynamics, whether or not the “identified patient” is specifically involved in those changes. In this type of therapy, the “identified patient” in a family – the one seen by family members as having the problem — is viewed by the therapist as part of a larger system that is creating or sustaining this problem. This approach can be particularly useful when one member of a family seems resistant to therapy or to change; it opens up other avenues for intervention.


Psychodynamic therapy is the oldest of the modern therapies. (Freud’s psychoanalysis is a specific form and subset of psychodymanic therapy.) As such, it is based in a highly developed and multifaceted theory of human development and interaction.

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on unconscious processes as they are manifested in a person’s present behavior with the goal of increasing self-awareness and understanding of the influence of the past on thoughts and behaviours, by exploring their unconscious patterns.

Clients are encouraged to explore unresolved issues and conflicts, and to talk about important people and relationships in their life. Transference (when clients transfer feelings they have toward important people in their life onto the therapist) is encouraged during sessions.

Compared to psychoanalytic therapy, psychodynamic therapy seeks to provide a quicker solution for more immediate problems.


Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a treatment model pioneered by Marsha Linehan (1991) which combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and reality-testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness. DBT is a treatment designed specifically for individuals with
self-harm behaviors, such as self-cutting, suicide thoughts, urges to suicide, and suicide attempts. Many clients with these behaviors meet criteria for a disorder called Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It is not unusual for individuals diagnosed with BPD to also struggle with other problems - Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety, Eating Disorders, or Alcohol and Drug Problems.


Interpersonal Therapy focuses on the interpersonal context and on building interpersonal skills. IPT is based on the belief that interpersonal factors may contribute heavily to psychological problems. It is commonly distinguished from other forms of therapy in its emphasis on interpersonal processes rather than intrapsychic processes.

IPT does not presume that psychopathology arises exclusively from problems within an interpersonal realm. It does emphasize, however, that these problems occur within an interpersonal context that is often interdependent with the illness process.

Website Links:
Wikipedia: Interpersonal Psychotherapy


Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was developed by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale and is psychological therapy which blends features of cognitive therapy with meditative practices and attitudes based on the cultivation of mindfulness. This therapy involves accepting thoughts and feelings without judgement rather than trying to push them out of consciousness, with a goal of correcting cognitive distortions. The aim of MBCT is not directed to relaxation or happiness in themselves, but rather, a "freedom from the tendency to get drawn into automatic reactions to thoughts, feelings, and events". (Segal, Z., Teasdale, J., Williams, M. (2002). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression).

Website Links:
Wikipedia: Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy

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