• Though “therapy” is often used to describe mental health services, the word “therapy,” by definition, encompasses physical therapy as well as mental.
  • Psychotherapy is actually the correct term for providing mental health therapy services, as “psycho-” refers to the mind.
  • Psychotherapists are trained professionals that administer a variety of mental health treatments, such as CBT and DBT.
  • The five main types of psychotherapy are cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, humanistic therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, and integrative or eclectic therapy.

Therapy is an important resource that helps people from all walks of life. With all of the terms and types of therapy out there, it can be hard to discern which one might be best for you. Luckily, we’re here to help take some of the mystery out of things and tell you about the different types of therapy, specifically the difference between therapy and psychotherapy.

Though psychotherapy might sound complicated, it’s actually a term for what we think of as “therapy”: services that provide help and treatment for mental health conditions.

What Is Psychotherapy? Is Psychotherapy the Same as Therapy?

They are not technically the same by definition, but many times when a person uses the term “therapy,” they are generally referring to psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a type of therapy. 

Therapy is a form of treatment meant to improve a condition, whether the condition is physical or mental. Psychotherapy, physical therapy, even massages are all contained under the umbrella term of “therapy.” 

The prefix “psycho-” refers to the mind. Therefore, a more specific definition for psychotherapy could be a form of treatment provided by a trained professional to assess, diagnose, and improve conditions related to the mind or thoughts.

What Is the Difference Between a Therapist and a Psychotherapist?

Similarly to what’s above, if one uses the term “therapist,” it’s likely that they’re referring to a psychotherapist such as a psychologist, counselor, or clinical social worker. However, by definition, the terms are not the same. A therapist is a nonspecific term that refers to a professional trained to treat a condition with the intention of improving it, either physical or mental.

A psychotherapist is a specific type of therapist that targets the mind, specifically thoughts and behaviors. They are professionals trained to treat mental health conditions with the intention of improving them.

What Exactly Does a Psychotherapist Do?

A psychotherapist is a licensed professional trained to provide mental health care for people by using psychological interventions to treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Essentially, they are trained to provide therapy services to people that need help with their mental health and wellbeing. 

Psychotherapists can use a wide variety of techniques and approaches in order to effectively treat mental health issues, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), among others.

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What Are the 5 Main Types of Psychotherapy?

There are many different types of psychotherapy, as mentioned just above, that can be used to treat mental health conditions. However, there are 5 main types that are commonly used:

  1. Psychodynamic therapy: Based in psychoanalysis, the focus of this method is placed on the unconscious mind and our understanding of self.
  2. Cognitive therapy: This type functions on the belief that faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking are the causes of the problematic behaviors and difficult emotions people deal with.
  3. Behavior therapy: This type uses learning and conditioning (operant and classical) to change or stop maladaptive behaviors.
  4. Humanistic therapy: This is a positive approach to therapy in which the person is more present and focused on personal potential, responsibility, and openness to experience and growth. It works to help people free themselves from unhelpful assumptions and attitudes so they can achieve self-actualization.
  5. Integrative or eclectic psychotherapy: This is when a therapist uses a combination of the different techniques from the above (psychodynamic, cognitive, behavior, humanistic) to holistically meet a client’s needs.

What Similarities Are There Between Counseling and Psychotherapy?

There are many similarities between mental health counseling and psychotherapy, but first it’s helpful to have an idea of what the two terms mean. 

The term “counseling” is broad, and generally refers to using interventions such as advice, support, encouragement, active listening, and guidance to help someone with their personal issues.

Psychotherapy, which requires more skills and training, can be defined as a form of treatment to improve conditions related to the mind or thoughts.

That being said, both approaches are effective for forming therapeutic relationships, identifying goals for self-improvement, and lessening the negative effects of a mental health disorder.