Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT focuses on the relationship among thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and notes how changes in any one of those areas can improve functioning in the others. For example, altering a person’s unhelpful thinking can lead to improved emotion regulation and healthier behaviors.
Therapists employing CBT may encourage patients to re-evaluate their thinking patterns and assumptions in order to identify unhelpful patterns (often termed “distortions”) in thoughts, such as overgeneralizing bad outcomes, negative thinking, and always expecting catastrophic outcomes, to more balanced and effective thinking patterns. These are intended to help the person reconceptualize their understanding of traumatic experiences, as well as their understanding of themselves and their ability to cope.
CBT has been thoroughly researched and is considered to be one of the most effective types of therapy for treating a host of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, substance use and addiction, and more.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
DBT is a branch of CBT that also focuses on changing maladaptive thinking patterns, behaviors, and beliefs as a way of reducing distress and associate mental health issues. However, DBT differs from traditional CBT in that it focuses on four key areas:
DBT has also been thoroughly studied and proven helpful in treating a range of issues, including:
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
ACT (pronounced like the word, not the individual letters) is based on the philosophy that some pain in life is unavoidable, but suffering is often created by our efforts to avoid that pain. Therefore, ACT helps people embrace their thoughts and emotions rather than fighting them or feeling bad about them.
Yes, we believe CBT’s goal of changing thoughts and feelings is helpful in many situations, but sometimes that can lead to overthinking and getting too enmeshed with our thoughts—much like struggling in quicksand can make you sink faster! That’s why it’s good to have a “toolbox” of strategies, and ACT is a helpful alternative to trying to change the way you think.
The core concepts of ACT are increasing non-judgmental mindfulness of your thoughts and feelings, values work, and committing to positive action.
Values work is focused on recognizing your personal values in different areas of your life and striving to live according to those principles. For example, learning to prioritize what is good for your physical and mental health versus living according to other people’s expectations at your own expense.
The committed action part involves taking concrete steps to incorporate changes that will align with your values and lead to positive change. This often incorporates goal-setting, learning to overcome obstacles to meaningful living, and skill development.
ACT is a transdiagnostic therapy, which means its principles have been shown to be helpful in working with almost any mental health concern.
Brainspotting Therapy (BSP)
Brainspotting was developed by David Grand, PhD, as an advancement of his work in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Brainspotting therapy uses spots in a person’s visual field to help them process trauma. BSP locates points in the client’s visual field that help to access unprocessed trauma in the subcortical brain.
Similar to EMDR, Brainspotting works on the theory that feelings from trauma can become “stuck” in the body, leading to both physical and mental ailments. It is believed that the brain’s memory of a particular trauma or incident is “reset” in the body and brain through BSP.
Although Brainspotting therapy is a flexible modality and doesn’t have a rigid standard protocol, there are guidelines most BSP sessions will follow. Here’s an example of what to expect in session:
The client rates their distress about a particular memory or thought before starting. Then the client will locate either a place of distress or strength, depending on what is being targeted, within their body.
The client scans their visual field both horizontally or vertically by following the movement of the therapist’s pointer. Both the therapist and client try to notice unconscious cues in your facial expressions, eye movements and body movements that indicate the correct vision spot has been identified.
Once the spot is located, you continue to focus on the specific area of concern while keeping your gaze focused on the pointer. The therapist does not talk much, allowing the client’s body and brain to processes. Clients can talk as much or as little as they prefer during this process, either processing internally or out loud as things comes up.
When it is time, the therapist will remove the pointer and allow time for processing at the conclusion of the session to see how the client is feeling physically and mentally. If needed, the therapist can lead the client in a grounding exercise.
Though Brainspotting therapy is primarily focused on discovering and alleviating trauma and PTSD symptoms, it can help many different types of issues, including:
Somatic Experience (Body-Based) Therapy (SE)
Because thoughts and feelings are intangible, sometimes we don’t realize how significantly they’re affected by what’s going on in our bodies. But biological factors like neurochemicals, hormones, and our nervous systems dramatically impact our mental health. The mind-body connection is real!
Somatic therapy is typically used with other therapy techniques to help treat trauma and other mental health issues by helping to release stress and trauma from the body. It also focuses on helping you regulating your nervous system responses so your body isn’t over- or under-reacting in situations.
One specific type of somatic therapy that focuses on the nervous system is polyvagal therapy, which involves how our body responds to stress and threats (or perceived threats). Sometimes our Fight-Flight-Freeze responses are dysregulated, which can cause anger, irritability, anxiety, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, things like emotional numbness, dissociation, and depression.
Somatic therapy incorporates body-oriented modalities such as movement, breathwork, grounding, meditation, and specific exercises to support mental healing. It can be an especially helpful approach in working with clients who get overwhelmed talking about their trauma because it teaches clients the skills to keep their bodies calmer in distressing situations.
Internal Family Systems (IFS)
IFS therapy revolves around the idea that each of us possesses numerous subpersonalities or “parts,” each with its unique characteristics, roles, and stories. Some parts may be protective, while others may carry emotions, beliefs, or past traumas.
IFS therapy can help you gain a deeper understanding of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors from a non-judgmental perspective. That newfound awareness will allow you to make conscious choices and build a stronger connection with yourself.
Through IFS, you can learn to access your core “Self,” which is characterized by what we call the 8 C’s: compassion, curiosity, clarity, creativity, calm, confidence, courage, and connectedness.