Alternative Methods of Psychotherapy Can Work Too

Imagine yourself in therapy. What does it look like in your mind? I’m guessing there’s a couch, a Kleenex box, and a therapist looking across at you from their therapist chair. And then there’s the talking… lots and lots of talking. Yes, therapy looks like this a lot of the time, but there are also many other excellent options of therapy to try if something less traditional appeals. Here are some of my favorites:

Active therapy —

If you’re a super active person, a maximizer, a little Type A, or if locking eyes with your therapist for a full hour gives you the heebie jeebies, running or walking therapy is a great option. It’s still talk therapy but it’s done while you run (or walk) alongside your therapist out in the real world.  Some people do their best thinking while running and others only have limited time for self-care, so simultaneous therapy and exercise is a more attractive alternative for them.

Creative therapy —

If that same Type A person wants to temper their overachieving, multi-tasking ways, art therapy is an incredible way to develop the flexible, feeling parts of themselves. Rest assured, art therapy is not about being a good artist. In art therapy, the therapist gives you a directive to create something and you usually get to choose the medium (paint, colored pencils, collage). The two of you then talk about what you’ve created, what it felt like, what you thought about when you made it, etc. This often comes naturally to creatives. If this is you, you’re probably thinking how fun art therapy sounds. However, people who don’t think of themselves as artistic or creative tend to get uncomfortable when art materials come out. Playing with the concept of there not being a “right” or “wrong” with no way to fail or succeed is hard sometimes, but also incredibly helpful to build the ability to work in the grey zone which increases confidence, flexibility, and self-acceptance, while decreasing anxiety, rigidity, anger, and trauma.

Scientific therapy —

On the more scientific side of therapeutic offerings is EMDR Therapy. EMDR is incredibly effective and, while it’s done in a conventional therapy office, relies on minimal talking to weaken the effects of trauma. Trauma can stem from areas such as a #metoo type of situation, a painful childhood, injury, accident, or loss. The effects of trauma can be anxiety, phobias, depression, sleep difficulties, amongst other things. In EMDR you do enough talking to get focused on the thing you’d like to change but then it becomes more about the physical sensations of tapping, vibrations, or tracking movements with your eyes that work to create new neural pathways in your brain, diminishing the effect of your painful experiences and freeing you up to feel different things and make different choices. 

Home and tech therapy —

Maybe you’re into the whole talking-it-out thing but want to do so from the comfort of your own home. Lucky for you, there are therapists who do house calls. This is a particularly great option for children or new moms. In the same vein, technology has also opened up the context that therapy is provided in. Talkspace is a subscription “messaging therapy” service in which almost all of your communication with your therapist is via text. BetterHelp and Breakthrough are other tele-health therapy services that connect you to therapists who will treat you through phone, video, or text sessions. As with any tele-health options, however, it’s important to weigh convenience against connection, as well as consider less secured confidentiality.

Group therapy —

In a time when convenience and technology are king, the world of constant online interaction is leaving hordes of people feeling alone and empty IRL. Group therapy is a great mode to consider if you need more connection in your life. Group therapy’s effectiveness in helping people understand where they fit into the world, and how they can feel more grounded and connected while seeing themselves through the eyes of others is very helpful for a lot of people. Group therapy can be topical (like a motherhood + identity or a grief group) or it can be a general “process” group. If you’re lacking community and sincere connection in your life or if the cost of individual therapy isn’t feasible for you, group therapy is where it’s at.

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As with anything, there are both pros and cons for each of these modes of therapy. Maybe what appeals least to you is what you need most, in which case, simply committing is the perfect way to push yourself. Or maybe you’re new to therapy and want to start off with the thing that’s most comfortable to you. Either way, these are all excellent, valuable options and I hope they’re helpful to you as you evolve, grow, and take care of yourself.

Jaimi Brooks, M.A. is a therapist in Los Angeles helping people navigate the tricky parts of being human. In addition to providing individual therapy, Jaimi runs therapy groups including a Motherhood + Identity Group, Entrepreneurial Women Group, and a Premarital Prep Group.

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