WHAT GOES ON
“Therapy” can mean a lot of different things. Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, tends to be short-term, collaborative and solutions-based, helping to equip you with strategies for coping with difficult thoughts or emotions. “You may think you’ve been painted into a corner [by life], and all of a sudden talking with a therapist reveals there’s a hidden door you can exit and go into another room and try something else out,” says Stephen Hinshaw, a professor of psychology. CBT can help you recognise unproductive patterns of thinking and learn to reshape your thoughts. For instance, you might catch yourself falling into black-andwhite thinking (maybe that either you’re great or you’re terrible), and your therapist can teach you to find a third possibility.
Another approach, psychodynamic therapy (which includes psychoanalysis), is more open-ended and less targeted. It can involve exploring themes in your life and mind or be aimed at processing past trauma. “Those folks are more likely to ask you to do a deep dive into your experiences and spend a lot of time unpacking your past,” says Powell. It’s like archaeology: you find stuff beneath the surface of your mind and dust it off in the therapist’s office so it makes sense to you and won’t haunt you.
Beyond these two big categories, you can find group therapy, single-session therapy and a full deck of other options. No matter the style, it’s confidential. Getting the most out of therapy often involves discussing sensitive subjects – sex, money, drugs, anger, fear, shame – and confidentiality makes that possible. What’s said between you and your therapist stays that way, with only the rarest exceptions, such as if a client is a risk to their own or someone else’s safety.