Five Different Approaches to Therapy

A non-exhaustive list of therapeutic approaches

By Jeffrey M. Cohen, PsyD 

Before I went to therapy, I didn’t know that there are different types of therapy. 

Today, I want to share 5 different approaches to therapy. These aren’t exhaustive definitions, but I hope these help people start their own research on different options for care.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

You identify thoughts and behaviors that you want to change, and the therapist helps you create a plan (using coping skills and other tools) to change those thoughts and behaviors. CBT often emphasizes practical solutions for problems.

Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT is about accepting our thoughts and feelings, without trying to change them. This type of therapy focuses on helping people do what matters to them in life. Put another way, ACT helps us get out of our head and into our life.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT incorporates a dialectical worldview which means two opposite ideas can be true at the same time. DBT balances the acceptance of ourselves where we are, while also changing what we want to change to build the life we want to be living.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

IPT draws connections between your mood and relationships to underlying interpersonal issues. These issues could be adjustment difficulties in social or professional roles, complicated grief, and problems relating to others.


Developed by Freud, psychoanalysis focuses on “changing problematic behaviors, feelings, and thoughts by discovering their unconscious meanings and motivations” (APA). In pop culture, this is the “couch therapy,” where a patient is lying on a couch and talking.




Jeffrey M. Cohen, PsyD is an Instructor of Medical Psychology (in Psychiatry) at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.


CBT, ACT, DBT, IPT, psychoanalysis