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Overview of psychotherapies

Jay Lebow, PhD, ABPP
Section Editors
Andrew Skodol, MD
Thomas L Schwenk, MD
Deputy Editor
Richard Hermann, MD


Psychotherapy is a typically interpersonal treatment based on psychological principles. It is individualized to patients or groups with a psychiatric disorder, problem, or adverse circumstance [1].

There are many types of psychotherapy with varying methods and levels of empirical support. The choice of the most appropriate type of psychotherapy is in part based upon the patient’s specific problem or diagnosis.

An overview of psychotherapy for the non-psychiatrist clinician is provided here. Psychotherapies for individual psychiatry disorders are reviewed in detail separately. (See "Unipolar depression in adults: Psychodynamic psychotherapy" and "Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) for depressed adults: Indications, theoretical foundation, general concepts, and efficacy" and "Psychotherapy for social anxiety disorder in adults" and "Psychotherapy for panic disorder with or without agoraphobia in adults" and "Psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder in adults" and "Unipolar depression in adults: Supportive psychotherapy" and "Bipolar disorder in adults: Psychoeducation and other adjunctive maintenance psychotherapies" and "Psychotherapy for adult ADHD" and "Psychotherapy of depersonalization/derealization disorder".)


Although there are many named psychotherapies, most are derivations of a few basic types. Psychotherapies within each of these categories broadly share a similar explanatory model and set of techniques. However, therapies are frequently modified (and may be renamed) when applied to new conditions or populations. Clinical trials have found each of the following psychotherapies, when administered under structured protocols by trained therapists, to be effective for specific psychiatric disorders in defined clinical populations [2].

Cognitive and behavioral psychotherapies

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 15, 2017.
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