Treatments  > Psychological > Clasification Of Psychotherapy

Classification Of Psychotherapy

The psychotherapies commonly available in the NHS include:


Behavioural Psychotherapy
  • Behaviour therapy is based on learning theory.

  • Focus of treatment is on changing behaviour, rather than feelings and thoughts.

  • Primary aim is symptom relief, not an attempt to understand the mental representations sustaining the symptoms.

  • Symptoms are examples of maladaptive behaviour.

  • Result from faulty learning.

  • Goal of treatment: to unlearn specific patterns of behaviour, through new learning, to replace them with more adaptive patterns.

  • Main obstacle to change is that the person feels intensely anxious when he attempts change.

  • Therapy makes use of reward or positive experience in reinforcing behaviours.


Cognitive Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive therapy is concerned with the way in which maladaptive behaviour or feelings may be reinforced by thoughts.   

  • A depressed person may interpret/misinterpret many things in his environment in such a negative way that his self-esteem sinks steadily lower. 

  • The cognitive therapist challenges this thinking asks the patient to identify the thoughts which are maintaining the depressed mood to re-evaluate the assumptions he/she is making.

  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy is concerned with the way in which a person’s mental representation of self and the world may lead to inappropriate behaviour in present personal and working relationships. 

  • Seeks a personal meaning for symptoms in terms of patient’s past and present life.

  • Emphasises importance of mental representations of earlier experiences in the present.

  • Explores conscious and unconscious expectations which ‘working models’ bring to relationships.

  • Explores the way in which the patient may unconsciously invite others to play a role in his expected scenario.

  • Aims to increase patient’s understanding of his thoughts, feelings & behaviour.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy
  • Clarify current problems and find the best way of dealing with them.

  • Usually no more than 15 sessions.

  • Mainly been used for depression.

  • Therapist identifies triggers to the depression and factors, which maintain symptoms.

  • Unlike dynamic psychotherapy the therapy does not explore the past. 

  • The therapist is identifies problem areas and works with the patient to find alternative strategies to deal with depression in the future.

  • Counselling is used here to describe a non-directive approach.

  • The therapist offers support and non-judgmental listening.

  • To help the patient find solutions to personal difficulties.

  • Not intended to make the patient confront his anxieties so much as to strengthen existing coping strategies and find new ones.

  • Therapist may give sympathy and encouragement.


In the NHS, counselling is commonly used for three kinds of patient:


  • Those who consult their general practitioner with mild to moderate psychological problems such as symptoms of depression or anxiety.

  • Those who usually cope adequately but have had a life crisis which is not resolving in the usual way, for example, a prolonged bereavement reaction.

  • Hospital patients who have particular illnesses, for example those suffering from cancer or AIDS.

Systemic Therapy
(Family Therapy)
  • Family therapy is a form of systemic therapy.

  • It assumes that a symptom or interpersonal problem can and sometimes should be addressed within the social context where it arises. 

  • The therapy aims: to identify the function of the presenting problem in maintaining the family system and to help the family identify alternative and more adaptive ways in which family needs can be satisfied.


Family therapy is an appropriate treatment:


  • For childhood problems where one or more children in a family are showing behavioural or emotional difficulties within their family or where problems at school appear to be related to family difficulties.

  • During adolescence and early adulthood where young people with psychiatric, psychological or emotional difficulties are still strongly bound up with their families or origin.

  • At other stages in the family life cycle:

- When family members are showing signs of problems in dealing with their relationships with each other.

- When a family has persistent difficulty negotiating a life problem, such as sickness, bereavement or divorce.

- Where an individual appears to have a psychiatric, psychological or emotional problem which affects and is affected by other members of his family.