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Demystifying Therapy

Demystifying Therapy

“What is a Theoretical Orientation?”

Finding a therapist who is a good match for you can sometimes feel like a very mysterious process. Of course, as in any relationship, some sort of indefinable chemistry is part of what helps you know that you feel good speaking to this person as opposed to someone else. But then there are other factors such as clinical style and theoretical orientation which both influence how the therapist is going to work with you.

Most seeking therapy wind up with someone who was recommended to them by a friend, doctor, or other practitioner. Few individuals actually call up a prospective therapist and ask what clinical theory he or she uses.

One of my passions as a therapist is helping to demystify the therapy process and assisting those who seek my help is to become more informed about therapy–both the process and the choices they have. If you have heard the term “theoretical orientation,” but never knew what it meant, this blog entry should help to clear up some of the confusion.

Okay Then, So What is a Theoretical Orientation?

As part of the training to become a therapist, we are introduced to different theories that offer different understandings about how a person’s problems develop and how those problems can be solved. These concepts about the development of problems and how they are best resolved are called a therapist’s theoretical orientation. It is the basic guiding principle in organizing a treatment and will provide information on how a therapist is likely to interact with you.

It is always appropriate to ask a therapist questions about her or his training, experience, and the theoretical orientation(s) she uses in her work. Consider your own preferences and style and think about whether your therapist’s approach will fit for your goals and vision of therapy.

Here are some of the more common theoretical orientations that you are likely to encounter;

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

  • Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy

  • Feminist Therapy

  • Family System Therapy

  • Humanistic Approach

  • Gestalt Therapy

  • Integrated Therapy

  • Existential Approach

Some Last Words on Theory

Now that you have a brief list of techniques that are often incorporated into the therapy session, some the main theories many therapists use, it’s good to remember that regardless of theory, all therapists differ. Two therapists utilizing the same exact theory may still think and respond differently to the same client bringing with the same issues. Ultimately, you still need to meet with a therapist face-to-face in order to know for sure if he or she is the right therapist for you.

Feel free to ask about my orientation and gain more information about specific approaches that might be beneficial to you.


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