I often tell my clients that looking for a therapist is like shoe shopping. Similar to how there are different styles of shoes, there are many styles of therapy. Different shoes (or therapists) can specialize in different areas, and can be intended for different purposes. If you're planning on hiking up a mountain, you don't want to buy flip-flops. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out what style might be best suited for you. So, I thought it would be funny to spend some time contemplating which therapeutic styles are analogous to different types of shoes. Hopefully, if you are looking for a therapist, this ‘window shopping’ guide might help you get a sense of what style might suit you best.
However, I do want to emphasize that this is also just me having fun (LMAO - COVID has brought me to a position where I deem blogging as "fun”, omg anyways), so, take this with a grain of salt.
Okay, last thing before we get going: someone, at some point, did research to assess which of the therapeutic styles was the best one. They ended up finding that all styles performed the EXACT same. This blew everyone's minds. How do they perform the same when we’re talking sandals and rainboots? Flip flops and hiking shoes? Basically, there is a concept in psychotherapy called the “common factors”. Common factors are the concepts that every counsellor is aiming to achieve. Every counsellor wants to be sure you feel safe, there are just different philosophies on how that is cultivated. Every counsellor wants to be sure you feel a bond with them, there are just different ways of believing how that is developed. So, what I hope you take from this is that it doesn't really matter which shoes you pick, just make sure that they fit you well.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): Running shoes
CBT is a classic. It's tried and true. It's pretty structured, lots of worksheets. It believes that new habits are created by intentionally instilling a new habit that eventually will become the default. To me, I see a running shoe. Repetitive. It believes in instilling routine and putting in the hard work to see results.
If you want to learn more about CBT: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-cognitive-behavior-therapy-2795747
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT): Hiking boot
DBT is also a behavioural therapy, so it has some parallels to CBT. It is structured, and has a ton of worksheets - like, there is a huge book just for worksheets. It believes that you have to train a new skill into a habit. DBT was designed for borderline personality disorder (BPD), but it is applicable to all problems and to anyone. It breaks down four fundamental life skills into bite-size pieces, that make the skill seem easier to understand and to implement into your life. I see a hiking boot with DBT. It is supportive, and rigid, but because of that you can climb to incredible heights. You learn about enjoying the fresh air, not necessarily going fast, and participating fully in the moment.
If you want to learn more about DBT: https://behavioraltech.org/resources/faqs/dialectical-behavior-therapy-dbt/
Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT): Toe-shoe
SFBT is totally different than CBT and DBT. SFBT is all about efficiency and speed. It is a super valuable counselling style because it is usually used most in crisis resources like hot-lines or emergency rooms. It is meant to be a brief intervention, and often counsellors will not see a client twice. To me, SFBT is a toe-shoe. They like to go fast, and they are damn proud of how fast they can go!
If you want to learn more about SFBT: https://solutionfocused.net/what-is-solution-focused-therapy/
Narrative Therapy (NT): Blundstone boot
NT is a playful and imaginative therapeutic style. It is less structured, more explorative and creative. NT believes that we all have a life-story, and in therapy you go and look at each chapter, to ensure you feel empowerment and strength from each lived experience, rather than heaviness or negativity. I chose a Blundstone boot, because it is versatile and super popular these days. Also, we can thank Australia for giving us both Blundstones and NT!
If you want to learn more about NT: https://dulwichcentre.com.au/what-is-narrative-therapy/
Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT): Converse
EFT is literally as it sounds. Emotions are at the forefront of therapeutic discussion, understanding that emotions can derail living a life that is inline with one's values. It focuses on understanding emotional roots and how those emotions are impacting overall functioning. I chose a converse, because they are stereotypically emo. And I use the word emo in an empowering way! Emo is cool! Emotional expression is awesome!!
If you want to read more about EFT: http://www.iseft.org/What-is-EFT
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): Hiking sandal
ACT is pretty structured, but not as structured as other behavioural therapy. Sometimes I see it as an interesting middle-ground between NT and DBT. ACT has a big focus on analogies, and often uses fun and playful language to describe one's internal world, similar to NT. But ACT is classified as a behavioural therapy, and just like DBT, has a huge focus on mindfulness. I chose a hiking sandal because ACT is supportive, allowing you to cover a lot of ground, but also focuses on being in the moment, encouraging you to enjoy the feeling of sunshine on your feet.
If you want to read more about ACT: https://positivepsychology.com/act-acceptance-and-commitment-therapy/
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Rainboot
EMDR is a go-to therapeutic style when processing trauma. It uses eye movement to help process emotions from a traumatic experience in a way that is healthy for the mind and body. I see a rainboot when I think about EMDR. I think I see the rain as tears, and the strength that EMDR gives someone by feeling capable and safe to go out and learn to dance in the rain.
If you want to read more on EMDR: https://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/
Somatic Therapy (ST): Barefoot
ST works in the body. It focuses on the sensations that are felt when emotions or thoughts are present, aiming to instill a healthy mind/body connection. It is primarily not talk-therapy based, but does include some talk to help narrow the direction for treatment. I chose no shoes for ST, because it is all about feeling the sensations. Feeling the way that the water feels on your feet, the cool difference between the water and air, fully engaged in the present sensations.
If you want to learn more about ST: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/therapy-types/somatic-therapy