One way of looking at therapy (and something to evaluate when choosing a therapist) is that there are basically 3 approaches that therapists typically take. These 3 orientations to therapy are Cognitive, Behavioral, and Psychodynamic.
- Cognitive Therapy focuses on mistaken beliefs and other ways of thinking that make us feel bad and act in ways that do not work well for us. The idea is that if we change our thinking, we can change our feelings and behavior.
- Behavioral Therapy focuses on changing behavior patterns that are troublesome for us and for those around us. The theory behind behavioral therapy is that if we change our behavior, our thoughts and feelings will follow and our lives will be more satisfying.
- Psychodynamic therapy focuses on exploring and understanding our feelings, including those that come from early life experiences, the emotionally based symbolic meanings of people, events, and parts of how we see ourselves. The plan of psychodynamic therapy is to gain insight into the emotional meaning in our life so we can think and act differently, based on this insight.
So these three approaches to therapy each focus on either thoughts, behavior or feelings as the key to unlocking the process of change. Sometimes clients come to me asking for one of these therapy approaches, often because someone has told them that it would be the best choice for treating their problem, or because they read or heard in a news item about a particular type of therapy. The problem with using any one of these three approaches to therapy is that it limits our options.
All human experiences involve thoughts, feelings and behavior. So to use one of these approaches and excluding the other two, we are taking two-thirds of the resources available to us off the table. In my work with clients, I try to include all three spheres in order to maximize the tools we have at our disposal to help make life feel better and run more effectively.