Behavior therapies focus on the behavior of a patient and how they learned their normal or abnormal behavioral patterns. Examples of behavioral therapy include the famous experiment with Ivan Pavlov’s dogs, where Pavlov noted that his dogs began drooling when they heard the dinner bell, because they associated the bell with food. This is often called classical conditioning.
Desensitizing is another common behavioral therapy term. A behavioral therapist may help a client with a phobia using repeated exposure to the fear to desensitize them.
E.L. Thorndike is yet another classic behavioral therapist, who coined the term operant conditioning, which works primarily in how punishments and rewards can shape someone’s behavior.
Cognitive therapy can be considered the opposite of behavior therapy, because cognitive therapies focus on what people think rather than what they do. Cognitive therapists believe that negative, unhealthy, or dysfunctional thinking is what drives individuals to act in negative, unhealthy, or dysfunctional ways. By changing the thoughts and thought patterns of the individual, cognitive therapy can then change the behaviors.
Humanistic therapies focus on the potential of individuals, emphasizing their ability to make rational choices and be the best they can be. Client-centered therapy is the concept that the client is the foundation of the therapeutic relationship, with the therapist acting more as a guide than an authority figure. Gestalt therapy is another form of humanistic therapy that emphasizes the “here and now”, focusing on being aware of the present and taking responsibility for one’s actions. Existential therapy focuses on free will, self-determination, and the search for meaning. Mindfulness-based therapies help build awareness of yourself, your feelings, and your body sensations to promote acceptance of yourself.
Integrative or Holistic Therapies
Most therapists are trained in several different types of therapies, and many clients benefit from various ideas and concepts. Due to this, many therapists take an integrative or holistic approach, which blends elements from different therapies to best benefit the client.
Group therapy, also called support groups, are where several people get together to tackle a common issue with a group facilitator. The facilitator is usually trained as a therapist, but sometimes may not be, especially in the case of self-help groups. Common examples of group therapy include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Survivors of Suicide (SOS).
Each group therapy is different depending on the subject, the facilitator, the members, and the agreed-upon rules of the group. Some groups focus mostly on education, while others provide a safe place to share feelings, coping skills, and receive support. Some meet at the same time and place every week, some rotate to different locations. Be sure to connect with the group facilitator before attending to get all the important details ahead of time.
Group therapy is beneficial because it is often free, community-driven, and provides a base for a healthy support system.