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Chapter 1: Kinds of Therapy

Even if you’ve never been in therapy before, you probably have some mental image of what it’s like based on TV shows or movies: two people sitting in leather chairs, talking quietly in a beautiful office.

Over the next ten chapters, that mental image is going to get a lot bigger. The kind of therapy you’ve seen on TV is available, but you might be surprised at how many other options are out there.

Individual Therapy

When you say the word “therapy” or “counseling,” this is the kind of approach most people think of. If you choose individual therapy, you will work one-on-one with your therapist in a private office, usually for one 50-minute session a week.

Just because you’re the only client in the room, though, you can still expect to spend time talking about and working on your relationships—a vital part of any counseling experience.


  • Because there are only two people involved, individual therapy offers the most privacy and the greatest assurance of confidentiality.
  • Your therapist will be focused entirely on you and your needs for the entire session.
  • You can typically work out a time that works best for your own schedule without having to coordinate with other people.


  • Individual therapy is more expensive than group therapy.
  • The therapist only has one source of information about your life.
  • You only have one source of feedback and support.

Group Therapy

If you choose group therapy, you’ll probably start with an individual interview with the therapist to make sure you’re a good fit for the group.

Groups range in size from 3-12 members, with the average being around 6-8. Typically, the entire group, along with the therapist, meets once a week for about 90 minutes in a large meeting room. Because of the space necessary, it’s not unusual for groups to take place in community centers or church social spaces.


  • Group therapy is typically much less expensive than individual therapy.
  • Working with other people is especially helpful for social and communication problems.
  • You get more than one source of feedback and support.


  • With so many people involved, it’s much harder to maintain confidentiality.
  • Your individual problems are not the sole focus of treatment.
  • You’ll have to compromise to find a date and time that works for the entire group.

Couples Therapy

Sometimes called marital therapy, marriage counseling, or relationship therapy, the focus here is primarily on the relationship between two people.

You and your partner will meet with a therapist to discuss your problems and work on ways to improve your relationship. Although rare, some therapists will work with each member of the couple in individual sessions as well.

Like individual therapy, sessions are usually held once a week for about 50 minutes in a private office.


  • If you’re dealing with major problems in your marriage or relationship, this form of counseling offers the most focus.
  • When both partners participate, the therapist gets more information and can observe how you relate to each other. This can greatly improve the effectiveness of treatment.


  • You may not feel comfortable revealing embarrassing things about yourself with your partner present. Your partner may feel the same way.
  • If your partner is resistant, it could block you from getting the help you need.

Family Therapy

Family therapy usually takes place in a private office, but increasingly, family therapists are offering services in the home. In either case, you can expect at least one 50-minute session a week. With this form of therapy, it’s not uncommon to have multiple or extended sessions as well. If you choose this approach, you may work with more than one therapist.

Your therapist might work with the entire family, subgroups within the family, individual members, or some combination of these arrangements.


  • If your family is having problems, this may be the most effective approach.
  • Working with the entire family gives each member an opportunity to share information and be part of the solution. This can lead to a greater sense of


  • Some members of the family may resist treatment, which will limit progress.
  • You may not feel comfortable sharing certain things about yourself in front of your family; other family members may feel the same way.

Activity 1

At the top of an index card or a small piece of paper, write Kinds of Therapy.
Below that, write down the kind of therapy you’d most prefer.

  • Individual Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Couples Therapy
  • Family Therapy
Chapter 1: Kinds of Therapy

Ben Butina

Ben Butina is a therapist and trainer. He is the executive director of Westmoreland Marriage, Inc. and lives with his wife and two children in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. This book is reproduced here with permission and is copyrighted © Ben Butina. All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Butina, B. (2009). Chapter 1: Kinds of Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 7 Jul 2009
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Jul 2009
Published on All rights reserved.