How Psychotherapy Styles Differ in Coping with Anxiety or Depression

A young woman with a sad look on her face talks to her therapist.Psychotherapy is the first form of treatment for depression or anxiety and involves a variety of treatment techniques. During psychotherapy, the person experiencing depression or anxiety speaks with a licensed psychologist or therapist who helps him or her to identify and work on the causative factors. These factors trigger depression or anxiety by working in combination with chemical imbalances in the brain or heredity factors.

Psychotherapy helps people with depression or anxiety in the following ways:

  • Understanding the behaviors, ideas, and emotions that contribute to depression or anxiety
  • Identifying the problems or events that contribute to depression or anxiety and understanding which aspects of the problem they can solve
  • Helping to regain a sense of control and pleasure in their lives
  • Teaching them problem solving skills and coping techniques

Although psychotherapy can be performed in different ways, such as individual, family, and group therapy, there are also different approaches that psychotherapists can use to provide therapy. After having a brief talk with the client, the therapist will decide on the approach to use based on the underlying factors that contribute to the person’s depression. Many therapists specialize in one or more specific techniques or approaches. These different approaches to psychotherapy include psychodynamic therapy, interpersonal therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and solution focused therapy.

Psychodynamic Therapy
This therapy assumes that the person is depressed due to unresolved, unconscious conflicts that often stem from childhood. The goal of this therapy is for the person to understand and cope better with these feelings by talking about such experiences. Psychodynamic therapy usually takes place over several months and can produce excellent results.

Interpersonal Therapy
Interpersonal therapy mainly focuses on the person’s behaviors and interactions with family and friends. The goal of this therapy is to enhance self-esteem and improve communication skills during a short period of time. This therapy usually lasts for 3 to 4 months and works well for depression caused by social isolation, mourning, major life events, and relationship conflicts.

Psychodynamic therapy and interpersonal therapy help people resolve depression or anxiety caused by loss or grief, role transitions (like becoming a parent or caregiver), and relationship conflicts.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people experiencing depression or anxiety to identify and change inaccurate perceptions they have about themselves and the world around them. The psychotherapist helps the client to think differently by directing attention to both the accurate and inaccurate assumptions they have about themselves and others.

This therapy is recommended for the following types of persons:

  • People who think and behave in ways that trigger and perpetuate depression
  • People who experience disability or interpersonal problems due to depression

Solution Focused Therapy
Solution focused therapy is a symptom-specific approach, which means it targets one or two stressors that are causing problems. The result might be helping the person find a better way to handle the boss at work or children at home. A person may simply learn techniques to handle anxiety. One therapist commented that solution focused therapy is like getting new tools in your toolbox to use immediately in your life, therefore helping you feel better quicker.

For an individual living with depression or anxiety, psychotherapy can promote better understanding of the condition and associated symptoms. For a person with depression, being able to talk with a psychologist or therapist who is there to listen, inquire, and help can be comforting as well as rewarding. After just a few sessions of psychotherapy, clients may feel a difference. Research suggests that three to five sessions often cause significant change. Talking through the issues can help identify behaviors and detrimental reactions or circumstances. Coping techniques can also be investigated during therapy sessions, and progress reports can be used to keep track of how these techniques work. For individuals experiencing anxiety or depression, being surrounded by loved ones or being encouraged to attend therapy sessions can provide immense support.

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Andrew Mendonsa, PsyD, therapist in Sacramento, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • annabeth


    January 23rd, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    a great introduction to psychotherapy in a clear and easy manner.I didn’t know much about psychotherapy except that it is used when depressed or when there is a psychological problem.kudos for the article,I’m sure it is going to help a lot of people like me who do not know much about it.

  • Annie


    January 23rd, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    This is a fantastic article about psychotherapy. I too am a psychotherapist and have found your information informative and correct. Keep up the good therapy!

  • Ryan P

    Ryan P

    January 23rd, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    I thought I was going into therapy and the first thing the doc wanted to do was write me an rx for something I had never heard of before. I thought I was just going in to talk it all out and instead he does not want to listen, just wants to scoot me off to the pharmacy. I want more than that.

  • jason


    January 24th, 2012 at 12:39 AM

    @Ryan P:maybe you should look elsewhere?and a little into the discussion you could make it clear that you want to avoid pharmaceuticals as much as possible while relying on therapy methods without the use of meds.if the professional is okay with that then you can go ahead or look elsewhere again.the first person need not be perfect you know.

  • Val


    March 20th, 2012 at 3:39 AM

    I went to a Psychotherapist a decade ago. I’m greatful. I was placed on an anti-depression med. The therapist knew within a couple sessions that she’d be revealing deep issues and did not want to harm me – a protective measure. This wonderful therapist helped me to see the origins of deep feelings and the grip my past had on the present everyday life.

  • Heidi


    February 5th, 2013 at 11:51 PM

    No mention of Person-Centred pyschotherapy? Yet I know from experience that this type of counselling can work very well, going to the buried psychological wounds of the problem, exposing them, cleaning them with tenderness and taking care to allow them to heal in a healthy way, although certainly not without scars, but enough to allow the person to continue life in a fuller, more functional way.

  • Susan


    May 20th, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    Going to college to become a child psychologist to end up on the other side. I got my experience for sure and could tell you some stories. I do not regret it all but wouldn’t live it over. Trauma Patient coming out of it all after all these years. Finding the right therapist sometimes take time but with that time you become a prisoner in your own body & mind. Please don’t hold back talking. You are wasting your life. If it is abuse you are suffering or grief seek out to the women’s center or grief counsiling. Call your local hospitol for some referrals. Take that step and soon you will be on the road to recovery. I am no longer a victim. I can say now I am a survivor! I thank god for answering my prayers and opening that door.

  • anonymous therapist

    anonymous therapist

    October 29th, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    Psychodynamic alone usually in fact does NOT create excellent results for clients suffering from depression and anxiety. A base of psychodynamic while also utilizing CBT or perhaps even DBT skills may have excellent results. I wish therapists would stop using only psychodynamic alone without teaching coping skills as well.

  • Max


    September 25th, 2017 at 4:40 PM

    I never thought there were several ways to treat anxiety. I thought cognitive behavior was the only one. My cousin has been looking for a therapist for her anxiety. I’ll have to share this with her.

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