Types of Psychotherapy That Treat Mental Illness

trauma therapy

Nearly 53 million Americans experience mental illness each year, and many refrain from seeking help due to the stigma around it. Psychotherapy plays a crucial role in addressing the underlying causes of mental health disorders, making it an essential component of comprehensive care. It encompasses a therapeutic alliance between a trained practitioner and an individual seeking assistance.

Through this collaboration, individuals can receive guidance in navigating their emotions, developing effective coping mechanisms, and striving for enhanced mental well-being. If you find that your emotional state or mental health is being impacted, proactively considering the services of an Aetna therapist can be a significant stride toward seeking support and elevating your overall quality of life. Below are popular types of psychotherapy:

1.  Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

As an extensively utilized and empirically supported therapeutic method, CBT emphasizes the interconnection between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The primary objective of CBT is to recognize and transform negative or irrational patterns of thinking and behaviors that contribute to psychological distress or mental health issues. By addressing these patterns, CBT endeavors to alleviate psychological distress and promote mental well-being.

During CBT sessions, patients collaborate with their therapist to recognize and question negative thought patterns or cognitive distortions. By examining the evidence supporting or contradicting these thoughts, patients gain understanding regarding their accuracy and acquire the ability to substitute them with more realistic and adaptive convictions.

CBT equips patients with invaluable coping strategies, encompassing relaxation techniques and problem-solving approaches, to effectively navigate distressing emotions and foster positive transformations in maladaptive behaviors. It proves instrumental in alleviating various mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder, promoting improved well-being.

2.  Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy emerges as a psychotherapeutic modality deeply rooted in Freudian psychology, which directs its attention towards delving into the subconscious processes and unresolved conflicts that mold an individual’s emotions and behavior. This therapeutic approach maintains the belief that early life experiences, particularly those encountered during childhood, profoundly influence an individual’s current functioning.

Psychodynamic therapy facilitates self-awareness, nurtures emotional growth, and cultivates more constructive modes of self-connection and interpersonal interactions. By bringing unconscious thoughts and emotions to the forefront of consciousness, patients gain the capacity to overcome emotional obstacles and make meaningful transformations in their lives.

This therapeutic methodology has exhibited effectiveness in addressing various mental health conditions, including personality disorders, trauma-related disorders, and persistent interpersonal challenges. Psychodynamic therapy allows individuals to gain a profound understanding of their inner world and embark on a journey toward enduring personal growth and change.

3.  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

This psychotherapeutic method is relatively new and often integrates elements from cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness techniques. ACT revolves around embracing and acknowledging distressing emotions and thoughts while simultaneously dedicating to taking actions that align with personal values and aspirations.

In ACT, patients develop abilities to cultivate mindfulness, which is a state of non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. This practice enables them to observe their thoughts and emotions without getting entangled in their grip. The approach emphasizes embracing thoughts and emotions as ordinary aspects of the human experience rather than striving to eliminate or suppress them. Through cultivating acceptance, patients can concentrate on what truly holds significance to them and initiate steps towards a purposeful and fulfilling existence.

ACT integrates a range of techniques, including exercises for values clarification, strategies for defusing distressing thoughts, and mindfulness practices, all aimed at fostering psychological adaptability and enabling individuals to lead lives driven by their core values.


4.  Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Initially designed to specifically target borderline personality disorder, DBT has exhibited promising results in treating bulimia, anxiety disorders, and depression. DBT combines elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with mindfulness practices, emphasizing acceptance and change simultaneously.

DBT focuses on enhancing a person’s emotional regulation skills, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and mindfulness abilities. Through individual therapy, group skills training, phone coaching, and therapist consultation teams, individuals acquire practical skills to manage intense emotions, navigate interpersonal conflicts, and tolerate distressing situations.

DBT recognizes that individuals may have complex and intense emotions, and it provides a non-judgmental space to explore and understand these emotions while learning healthier coping mechanisms. It helps individuals build a life worth living, promoting self-acceptance, emotional resilience, and improved interpersonal relationships.

5.  Family Therapy

Mental illness not only impacts individuals but also profoundly affects their families and relationships. Family therapy, a form of psychotherapy, centers around the entire family system to address and resolve conflicts, enhance communication, and foster healthier dynamics.

Involving family members in the therapeutic process, family therapy aims to uncover and comprehend how familial patterns, dynamics, and interactions contribute to the individual’s mental health concerns. By delving into family history, beliefs, and values, therapy sessions create a platform for open dialogue and mutual understanding. Addressing and improving family dynamics contributes to the patient’s well-being and recovery.

6.  Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

By using bilateral stimulation techniques, such as eye movements or hand taps, EMDR helps patients process traumatic memories and associated distressing emotions. EMDR incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy, bilateral stimulation, and mindfulness techniques. The therapy involves guided eye movements or other forms of rhythmic sensory stimulation while the individual focuses on traumatic memories or distressing thoughts. This process aims to facilitate the reprocessing of traumatic experiences, allowing patients to heal from the emotional wounds associated with the trauma.

Through active participation in EMDR, patients have the potential to witness a decrease in the intensity of traumatic memories, a transformation of negative beliefs and emotions linked to the trauma, and an augmented sense of personal agency and effectiveness. EMDR presents a systematic and grounded approach, supported by empirical evidence, to effectively address the repercussions of trauma on mental well-being, nurturing resilience and facilitating the journey towards recovery.


Psychotherapy assumes an essential function in the management of mental illness, providing individuals with a secure environment to delve into their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Each approach mentioned above approaches mental health concerns from a distinctive vantage point, equipping individuals with invaluable resources, insights, and encouragement throughout their path to recovery and flourishing. By acknowledging the significance of psychotherapy and seeking suitable assistance, patients can find the support they require to navigate the complexities of mental illness and regain control over their lives.