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CBT, IPT, & EMDR: Therapy Explained

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If you're just starting talk therapy, you might feel anxious about opening up to a stranger. Add in confusion surrounding all the different acronyms floating around out there, and you might be reluctant to schedule your first visit.

While we can't alleviate your stress over wading through what's troubling you (though we can assure you, everything will be fine), we can help you better understand the different types of therapy so you know what you're getting into. Learn more about the differences between CBT, IPT, MBCT, EMDR, and regular counseling below.

CBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy, and the main goal of this talk therapy is to work through your thought processes about life and eliminate negative patterns of behavior.

Some examples of undesirable cognitive behaviors or thoughts your therapist might help you work through include:

  • Only noticing the negative things instead of anything positive
  • Setting standards for yourself that are unrealistic and unobtainable
  • Feeling as though nothing will ever be right in life

Many different people can benefit from CBT, but it's particularly useful for those living with depression, anxiety, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, and substance use disorders.

During a CBT session, you'll talk one-on-one with your therapist to develop realistic goals for yourself, manage stress through deep breathing or self-talk, and identify the situations you tend to avoid in life. Typically, treatment requires 12 to 20 sessions of work to help you build a routine and change the way you process negative emotions.

IPT: Interpersonal Therapy

If you're living with depression, you might want to try IPT, or interpersonal therapy. It's a way for you to examine your relationships in life and uncover any issues that might be negatively impacting your mental health. You will talk about how your partners, friends, or family interact with you and any problems that causes.

Usually, you'll require around 12 to 20 IPT sessions to truly get to the root of your relationship problems. This is typically broken down into three parts:

  • In one to three beginning sessions, a therapist will diagnose your depression and try to get to the root cause
  • In 14 to 16 middle sessions, the therapist will help you address your own needs in the relationship, acting as your ally as you work on taking a stand
  • In three end sessions, the therapist will go over your accomplishments to help you feel more independent and capable of resolving future struggles on your own

MBCT: Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

In MBCT, or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, you'll get a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness practices. Rather than straight talk therapy where you discuss issues with your therapist the whole session, MBCT dedicates part of the session to techniques to help you focus and calm your mind and body, including:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Stretching
  • Meditation

During a session, you'll learn to become more aware of your feelings and thoughts as just passing events rather than representations of your self. Because of this, it's a great treatment for people living with addiction or depression, especially those who are having recurring episodes.

MBCT typically only lasts for eight sessions, but you can use the techniques you learn to keep working on your mindfulness after the fact.

EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR therapy is also known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It's a type of talk therapy specifically for patients living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People living with PTSD have to carry around the memories of their trauma, but EMDR is a way to reshape those memories into something more positive and less haunting. In particular, it's a good way to help patients experiencing:

  • Flashbacks
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Bad reactions to ordinary situations

Most people require six to 12 sessions of EMDR, during which they'll work on reprocessing the memories of their bad experiences. This involves the use of eye movements and left-right sound stimulation to help the brain reduce the intensity of the memory. Make sure you have a support group to help you during your treatments, as you may find the sessions intense at first.

Find the Talk Therapy That's Right for You

Keep in mind that even if you head to a psychologist thinking one type of therapy is what you need, they might switch you to another therapy after your first visit. Luckily, if you choose talk therapy from SonderMind, you'll have experienced professionals who know exactly how to help you. They can tailor your therapy to specifically meet your needs and help improve your mental health.

Last Updated:
First Published:
August 28, 2020
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