Often, clients may know their therapists’ theoretical orientation by name without a solid understanding of what it means. Many people refer to their therapists as “CBT”, “psychodynamic“, “behavioral”, Gestalt, “eclectic” etc. but they are not quite sure what those terms mean.
To be an educated consumer of talk therapy one of the things you need to know is the basic schools of thought in psychotherapy that different therapists are coming from and the differences between them. Those schools of thought are psychological theories or belief systems that therapists hold and on which they base their methods. What you need to know as a consumer is that none of those theories are “confirmed” by science, that is to say that none of them has a solid enough body of evidence to be accepted as undeniable fact. Some aspects of those theories have more or less empirical support than others but the rigorous scientific research hasn’t yet been conducted to either prove or disprove any of the current psychological theories that are widely used by practitioners.
Therefore, as a consumer, you should know that your therapist is guided more by their personal beliefs about mental health and bases his or her work on the theories that are reflective of those beliefs as opposed to medical facts. That is why it is very important that you and your therapist establish at the first meeting that you both look at the nature of your problems and their solutions from the same perspective to ensure that you work in collaboration that effective therapy requires.
In “Types of Therapy” series I will attempt to explain different psychological theories upon which therapists build their work so you’d be able to decide for yourself what resonates with you most and to select a therapist who works from that perspective.