Becoming a therapist requires unique skills centered around compassion, understanding, and empathy. These skills will enable therapists to offer effective treatment to clients looking up to therapists to help them in coping with different mental health challenges.
Universities and other counseling training facilities offer transformative training to help bridge the gap between theory and practice to become an effective therapist. This article delves into the world of therapy training to unveil the different ways a university course can help individuals upgrade their training and career as a therapist.
Table of Contents
What are the different types of therapy?
There are numerous types of therapy based on different approaches and focus points for the patients. Some of the common types of therapy include the following.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
This type of therapy helps patients identify how their thoughts and behaviors affect their mental health. CBT is one of the highly effective forms of therapy and includes training to help therapists analyze their patient’s thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. With the right training in CBT, therapists can personalize their patient’s treatment approach and help them change negative thought patterns and develop behaviors that positively impact their lives.
This therapy allows therapists to guide their patients in understanding the conscious and unconscious motivations behind their feelings and behaviors. Training in psychodynamic therapy provides the skills to explore a patient’s past and present experiences and how other aspects, such as their biology, social settings, and psychology, can subconsciously affect their feelings and behaviors.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
This type of therapy involves different approaches to help a patient combine two or more therapy practices, e.g., acceptance and change, to produce a positive outcome. DBT is commonly used to treat high-risk patients like suicidal patients, patients with borderline personality disorders, and those with multiple diagnoses.
This form of therapy involves helping a patient focus on the present moment. Gestalt therapy allows them to explore their current feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and how this awareness can positively impact their lives.
This type of therapy is client focused. It helps clients discover their authentic selves by encouraging free will in creating solutions for their emotional and psychological concerns. With proper training in humanistic therapy, therapists can guide patients in discovering their full potential and discarding negative self-assumptions and attitudes about themselves.
This type of therapy training focuses on helping patients find a purpose for their lives when faced with uncertainty. Existential therapy helps develop positive coping mechanisms when dealing with unavoidable losses, such as the end of a relationship or the death of a loved one. An existential therapist is trained to help patients confront negative changes and find purposeful meaning in their lives.
These forms of therapies incorporate activities such as meditation, yoga, relaxation and physical exercise to help patients focus on the present moment. A mindfulness-based therapist will be trained to help patients accept rather than ignore, avoid, or suppress their negative experiences, and how they can use activities like meditation to cultivate present-moment awareness, manage difficult emotions and reduce stress. The two types of mindfulness-based therapies include Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
This type of therapy involves a therapist working with families to address issues facing them as a unit. Family therapy aims at resolving conflicts, improving communication, and enhancing the family’s overall functioning.
This therapy involves a therapist working with a small group of individuals facing similar concerns or challenges with their mental health. Group therapy provides supportive environments for individuals to share experiences, gain positive insights, and receive feedback from the therapist and other group members. A well-trained group therapist can identify patients who will benefit from group therapy, then form the groups and structure therapy processes to help all members achieve their treatment goals.
This type of therapy focuses on helping romantic partners achieve healthy relationship goals. Couples therapy aims at helping couples develop healthy communication, navigate conflicts wisely, improve their intimacy, and strengthen their bond.
These types of treatment services aim at rehabilitating or developing skills to help an individual improve their quality of life. Specialized therapies are offered individually or as part of another treatment plan. Some of the common specialized therapies include occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, sensory integration therapy, and neurobehavioral evaluation.
Therapy training in university programs
Universities have included training for the different types of therapies in their counseling, psychology, and clinical programs. Various counseling programs and curriculums are designed to help individuals achieve professional training and certification as a therapist. One such program is the mental health counseling masters online course at St Bonaventure University.
This course offers an introduction to the counseling profession, training and credits in advanced human growth and development, multicultural counseling, and diagnosis of psychopathology, among others. The course uses various methods to achieve effective online training. Students will have weekly live sessions with lecturers and peers in the program, and they can participate in role-playing, discussion boards, and demonstrations about different types of therapy. Students also receive learning resources including books, videos, and other learning materials to equip them with the knowledge and skills for effective therapy treatment.
Common methods of therapy training
Universities use a combination of methods to teach the different types of therapy. These methods include the following.
- Classroom instruction
Students can learn the basics of the various types of therapy through classroom lectures. Classrooms allow for interactive training between lecturers and trainees in the different foundational theoretical approaches, techniques and intervention processes, and therapy structures. Students can access classroom lectures in therapy onsite or online.
- Research and textbooks
Universities use books, research papers and scholarly articles to offer therapy training. These reading materials provide in-depth information and various views of therapeutic theories.
- Experiential learning
One of the ways students can gain effective training in therapy is through experience. Universities allow experiential training by exploring approved and documented case studies and video demonstrations. These methods introduce students to real-life therapy sessions by other counselors, helping them learn and sharpen their skills. Therapy training at university also facilitates role-playing and therapy session simulations to help build practical therapy skills. Students can engage with peers in playing the roles of both client and therapist to explore the techniques used in identifying particular thought and behavior patterns, plus how they can apply therapeutic interventions in the treatment process.
- Practical application
Counseling and therapy programs in the university allow students to get supervised hands-on experience with real clients and exposure to different types of mental health challenges. Clinical therapy practicums also offer feedback on service delivery and guidance from supervisors. These practicum sessions are supervised by a licensed therapist in university-affiliated clinics or under internships in hospitals or private practices.
- Skill building
University training in therapy can help students develop active listening, communication, and empathy skills. These skills will help them offer their future clients interactive and non-judgmental therapeutic services. They will also learn how to create and maintain trust and rapport with clients.
- Ethics in counseling
University counseling programs are designed to teach the requisite standards in the counseling profession. Students will learn the ethical and professional standards they must maintain in patient interactions. They will also learn how to maintain client confidentiality and set boundaries in their interactions during and after counseling service.
University therapy training approaches for different types of therapy
Universities may differ in methodology and emphasis regarding therapeutic approaches in their counseling and mental health programs. However, some of the different therapies have specific training aims and goals.
1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
University therapy training in CBT provides in-depth knowledge of various cognitive behavior models, methods, and concepts. Students also gain a deeper understanding of CBT in theory and practice and gain competence in assessing patients’ suitability for this type of therapy. Some of the skills gained from CBT training include:
- Cognitive restructuring techniques: Students will learn how to work with their patients to identify negative thought patterns. They will also learn how to guide the patients in restructuring their thoughts in a more positive and constructive way.
- Behavior analysis and modification: CBT training equips students with the skills to conduct behavior analysis and develop positive behavior change models for patients.
2. Psychodynamic therapy
In psychodynamic therapy training, students learn how to help a patient explore their unconscious processes and how they affect their lives. They also learn how to analyze the impact of early life experiences on a patient’s present life and help them overcome mental health challenges by freeing themselves from their pasts.
Students also learn how to guide their client through transference and countertransference of feelings to help them overcome self-defeating patterns and develop positive ways of relating with others.
3. Humanistic therapy
University training in humanistic therapy will teach students how to foster self-exploration in their patients and guide them towards positive personal growth. Students will learn how to guide their client in understanding and gaining trust in themselves. They will also learn how to increase their client’s self-esteem and encourage them to explore and analyze their experiences. Finally, students learn to act only as a guide and sounding board to their client as they set and work on therapy goals.
Some of the techniques covered in humanistic therapy training include congruence, non-directiveness, unconditional positive regard, empathy, the reflection of feelings, paraphrasing of questions, and the art of encouraging and asking clients open questions.
4. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
Training in DBT provides the skills to combine different therapy approaches to achieve a common treatment goal. Students will be able to help their patients overcome self-destructive behaviors like self-injury or suicide attempts, help them learn how to regulate their emotions, develop tolerance, and create healthy relationships.
5. Mindfulness-based therapy (MBT)
Training in MBT helps students effectively incorporate mindful practices such as meditation, breathing, relaxation, and physical exercises into treatment plans. Students will learn how to guide their patient using these practices to shift their focus to the present moment, thus eliminating stressful feelings and behaviors.
6. Gestalt therapy
Training as a gestalt therapist provides the knowledge to apply the following techniques in your treatment programs:
- Word and language analysis
- Empty chair exercises
- Body language analysis
- Exaggeration method
- Creative art therapy
- Location of emotion in the patient’s body
Gestalt therapy training helps students to guide their patients on a journey of self-awareness and develop ways of assisting them to work through their pain.
7. Existential therapy
Training in existential therapy provides the skills needed to approach a client’s unease and suffering in a philosophical and holistic way. As such, therapists can help their clients cope with their unease or difficulty by assisting them in exploring their past, present, and future. Students will also learn how to guide their patients in connecting with their physicality, self-identities or lack thereof, and interactions with others and their surrounding environment. This training can help students to effectively guide their patients in tolerating their difficulties and engaging with problems constructively.
8. Family therapy
Training in family therapy exposes you to existing approaches such as:
- Strategic family therapy
- Systemic family therapy
- Structural family therapy
- Bowenian family therapy
- Narrative family therapy
- Communication therapy
- Brief strategic therapy
- Brief solution-focused family therapy
Family therapy training equips students with the skills to enhance effective communication between family members, help clients understand their commonalities, increase separation and individuation, offer healthy interaction models, and educate and dispel damaging myths between members.
9. Group therapy
University training in group therapy teaches students how to create, conduct, and manage group therapy sessions. Students will learn how to develop effective group therapy programs. They will also learn how to facilitate a safe environment for the individuals in the group to share their experiences, learn from each other’s experiences, and achieve their individual treatment goals.
10. Couples therapy
Couples therapy training explores techniques such as:
- Reflective listening
- Narrative therapy
- The Gottman method
- Emotionally focused therapy
- Imago relationship therapy
- Solution-focused therapy
Students will learn how to set couple therapy goals, assess the couple’s relationship goals, and help couples explore their thoughts and behavior patterns.
Challenges of therapy training
Like any other form of training, therapy training has its challenges. One of the challenges many universities and trainees might encounter in their program is a need for more research and training resources in some areas. As new techniques and approaches based on modern client needs arise, university programs and trainers might need more research and information to inform the concepts and evaluate the trainee’s comprehension.
Another challenge of therapy training is limited or lack of supervision in practice. A trainee might not have access to a real-time professional therapy session due to considerations of client confidentiality. The same concept applies to supervisors not getting full access to a trainee’s practical sessions where a trainer can assess the student’s service delivery and offer guidelines on the same.
The future of therapy training
Therapy training exposes students to the different concepts of treating mental health challenges. Students will be able to understand the cultural differences of their clients and curate treatment plans to suit them. They will also learn how to accommodate their client’s views and challenges and offer guidance without imposing or judging them based on views and beliefs.
Universities integrate cultural competence and diversity training in all therapy and counseling programs. These programs will also expose students to emerging therapies based on patient needs and research and offer training on theoretical and practical techniques to offer these in practice.
Access to therapy training helps counselors to specialize in their service delivery. Modern advancements in technology have relieved many seeking therapy training, bringing graduate and postgraduate training closer to aspiring and upscaling students. Online postgraduate therapy courses help individuals to achieve new therapy skills and increase their continuing education and practicum hours without interrupting service to existing clients.
Modern technology has also allowed for documentation and sharing of quality learning resources such as research papers, video content, and eBooks, to help them access in-depth information for therapy training. Video conferencing has also allowed live interactions between lecturers and students to allow for one-on-one training and lecturer reviews, role-playing and participation in live sessions that help individuals master effective communication and analytical therapy skills.
In closing, online university platforms provide a cohesive environment for therapy training. A therapy trainee can choose a course that aligns with their career and service delivery goals and interact with other experts in the field, from the comfort of their home or office. Interested individuals should choose an online course that provides comprehensive training and upskilling to help deliver positive mental health outcomes for clients and realize their career growth objectives.