Five Effective Types of Therapy for Anxiety and Depression

Plus: which one is the most effective overall, and how to know which is right for you
Medically Reviewed by
Dr Hamilton
A depressed man in glasses looks down at his clasped hands
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With so many types of therapy for anxiety and depression, how do you know which one to choose? It’s hard enough knowing when it’s time to get treatment for your anxiety or depression in the first place — of course, the earlier you get help, the better, but it can be difficult to make the leap. 

Facing down a list of therapy methods as part of your research to find a therapist can cause major overwhelm, and that’s not your fault. So many forms of therapy seem similar to the untrained eye, and when you’re in a tough mental health situation it can be especially challenging to figure out the differences among them.

That’s what we’re here for. We’ll break down the five most common types of therapy for depression and anxiety, explaining the characteristics of each one — so you can find the right therapy for your anxiety or depression.

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A woman sits on the floor, anxious and depressed, thinking about therapy
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Types of therapy for anxiety or depression

Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal therapy is focused on the relationships in the patient’s life and how they may affect the patient’s depression. It’s often intended to be shorter-term, between 12 and 16 weeks, with the early sessions being devoted to the therapist learning about the patient’s symptoms and relationships and the later ones geared more toward shifting the relationship dynamics to improve the symptoms.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy reduces anxiety and depression symptoms by helping the patient identify, understand, and adjust their negative thought patterns. Like IPT, CBT is often employed over a set period of time; exposure therapy and systematic desensitization are both forms of cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT techniques include cognitive restructuring, activity scheduling, and journaling to track thought processes. 

CBT has been proven to be the most effective therapy to treat anxiety and depression

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)

If CBT is geared toward changing your behavior, DBT is about a combination of change and acceptance. Drawing on both CBT techniques and meditation concepts, DBT is often offered as a dual treatment involving both individual sessions and regular support group meetings.

Psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is focused on the patient’s deeply rooted internal conflicts, which usually begin in childhood — it’s often used to treat depression by identifying and working to adjust maladaptive coping mechanisms.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

Like psychodynamic therapy, EMDR works to target and shift the way past experiences — including childhood trauma — affect the patient’s present-day life. Under the guidance of a trained therapist, patients recall troubling memories while experiencing sensory movements or sounds, changing the association with the memories to something less upsetting.

How to choose a type of therapy

The main consideration here is going to be your symptoms — both how intense they are and how they show up in your life. For example, if you have anxiety symptoms that also meet the criteria for PTSD, you might consider looking for a therapist who practices both CBT and EMDR. 

It’s also worth thinking about your comfort level with the different techniques. Do you prefer to work one-on-one with a therapist, or do group sessions appeal to you? If they do, and you like the idea of combining CBT with meditation, DBT might be a good option.

Overall, CBT is the most effective type of therapy for depression and anxiety disorders. It’s evidence-based, structured, and goal-oriented, and it’s been proven to start working in as little as two weeks. 

Therapists created Youper to make mental healthcare accessible to everyone. Youper is a mental health chatbot that guides you through interactive CBT Therapy exercises to help you calm anxiety, improve your relationships, be more productive, and improve your mood. Youper is available on your own time and schedule wherever and whenever needed.

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