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PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, PSYCHOLOGY (psychology.oxfordre.com). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2016. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited. Please see applicable Privacy Policy and Legal Notice (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 19 October 2018

Summary and Keywords

There are many approaches to psychotherapy, commonly called “schools” or “theories.” These schools range from psychoanalytic, to variations of insight- and conflict-based approaches, through behavioral and cognitive behavioral approaches, to humanistic/existential approaches, and finally to integrative and eclectic approaches. Different and seemingly new approaches typically have been informed by older and more established ones. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), one of the more widely used approaches, evolved from traditional behavior therapy but has become sufficiently distinct by adding its own complex variations so as functionally to represent an approach of its own.

New approaches abound both in number and in complexity. Modern clinicians have had to become increasingly widely read and creative in trying to understand the ways in which patients may be helped. The sheer number of approaches, which has climbed into the hundreds, has challenged the field to find ways of ensuring that the treatments presented are effective. The advent of Evidence Based Practices (EBP) throughout the healthcare fields has placed the responsibility on those who advocate for particular types of treatment scientifically to demonstrate their efficacy and effectiveness. While this movement has brought standards to the field and has offered some assurance that psychotherapy is usually helpful, there remains much debate about whether the many different schools produce different results from one another. The debate about how best to optimize positive effects of psychotherapy continues, and there remain many questions to be asked of psychotherapy theories and of research on these approaches.

Keywords: psychotherapy theories, schools of psychotherapy, history of psychotherapy, approaches to psychotherapy, behavior therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive psychotherapies, humanistic psychotherapies, integrative psychotherapies

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