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Visions Journal

Glossary of Treatments

Visions staff

This glossary accompanies the article Psychotherapy—Choosing an Effective Treatment.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) aims to help clients recognize and accept thoughts, feelings, and situations that cause problems and then to commit to meaningful actions. ACT is a kind of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) but is different from standard CBT because it’s based on accepting difficult experiences rather than trying to control or avoid them.

Behavioural activation (BA) focuses on action. Practitioners support clients in understanding and changing behaviours such as inaction that keep a problem going. It is a technique that is often part of behavioural therapy.

Behavioural marital therapy is a form of behavioural therapy that helps couples address problems and improve their relationship.

Behavioural therapy focuses on behaviours or actions and tries to improve well-being by changing unhelpful behaviours and the outside factors that support those behaviours. Behavioural therapy is a broad term that includes a number of methods and techniques; relaxation skills and exposure to feared situations are two examples.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) centres on the connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviours—changing one influences the others. Clients learn specific skills, such as problem-solving, stress management, identifying and challenging negative self-talk and challenging avoidance. CBT is usually a short-term treatment (6-20 sessions) that focuses on current problems or concerns. You can learn more about CBT at

Couples therapy believes that the best way to treat a problem or challenge in a person who is also in a committed relationship is to treat it within the context of the relationship as well. It aims to address problems without blame, identify unhelpful patterns in the relationships, and help the couple learn new skills to support a good relationship. Couples therapy may include a number of different therapy approaches or techniques, including emotionally-focused therapy. You can learn more about couples therapy at

Dialectical-behaviour therapy (DBT) is based on cognitive-behavioural therapy, with greater emphasis on emotions and social aspects. In addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy skills, DBT focuses on feeling heard and acknowledged in relationships, with the aim of helping clients manage strong or unstable emotions, build strong interpersonal relationships, and tolerate distress. DBT is usually a longer-term treatment. You can learn more about DBT at

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is based on the theory that mental health challenges may be the result of unprocessed traumatic memories. It aims to help desensitize the client to the memory so they can cope well with the past situation. One of the desensitization techniques involves eye movements alongside lights or tapping.

Emotional and social mind training or Emotional brain training focuses on ‘retraining’ the brain’s emotional processes. It believes that unhelpful emotions and responses to emotions can become entrenched and automatic. Emotional brain training teaches clients different skills to change the automatic responses that cause problems.

Emotionally-focused couples therapy or Emotionally-focused therapy (EFT) is a short-term therapy approach that focuses on emotions. It views emotions as the most important factor in a person’s response to challenges or difficulties, so practitioners aim to help clients identify and reflect on their emotions, manage emotions, and change their old patterns.

Family therapy is a broad name for therapies that focus on building healthy relationships and viewing an individual’s problem or illness as connected to the family and family relationships.

Family-focused therapy (FFT) combines two types of psychotherapy: a kind of family therapy and a kind of psychoeducation which teaches individuals and their families about the illness.

Focal psychotherapy is usually a short-term approach where the practitioner and client focus on a main problem or conflict. The problem is typically one that first began earlier in life but has re-emerged and is now having negative effects on the client’s well-being. Focal therapy views problems like stress as related to unhelpful coping strategies that may not be obvious to the client.

Hypnobehavioural therapy or Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy (CBH) combines hypnotherapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy. Both hypnotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy say that changing a thought or behaviour will change an emotional response or feeling. Practitioners believe the suggestive therapy found in hypnotherapy may better prime a client to use their cognitive-behavioural therapy skills around challenging negative thoughts.

Hypnotherapy or Hypnosis focuses on change or trauma. The practitioner guides the client to a state of ‘trance’ using relaxation techniques and focused concentration and attention. Clients in a state of trance may be able to process experiences or events that cause challenges in their life or ignore sensations (like pain) that cause distress. There are two types of hypnotherapy: suggestion therapy encourages clients who struggle with change, such as quitting smoking or changing the experience of anxiety, while analysis focuses on understanding the root cause of challenges like trauma or a mental illness.

Integrative behavioural couple therapy (IBCT) or Behavioural marital therapy or Behavioural couples therapy helps couples understand where each person is coming from and then work together to solve problems. The practitioner is active in helping partners identify problems and practice good, helpful communication.

Integrative cognitive-affective therapy (ICAT) focuses on the disconnect between how a client sees themself and how they believe they should be. ICAT believes this disconnect leads to a cycle of unhelpful negative thoughts, feelings, and unhelpful behaviours. ICAT ‘integrates’ techniques found in cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing.

Intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) teaches children skills to improve social skills, communication skills, and development. It may help children who experience autism better understand and connect with their environment. It usually starts when a child is young so they can develop, go to school, and take part in the same activities as other children their age.

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) or Interpersonal therapy focuses on interpersonal events and relationships. It views problems like low mood as the result of challenges around personal relationships, life transitions, or losses. IPT aims to help clients balance emotions, cope with difficulties, identify and change problem behaviours, and better understand their relationships.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) is a type of psychotherapy specifically designed to help people with bipolar disorder. It helps people understand and maintain consistent routines around sleeping, eating, and other daily activities, as well as identify problems—including those in personal relationships—that can disrupt those routines. It combines techniques from interpersonal psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Mentalization based therapy (MBT) help clients reflect on their own thoughts, think about other’s thoughts, and understand how different people might have very different thoughts. The goal is to help clients control their feelings and build better relationships with others. You can learn more about MBT at

Motivational therapy or Motivational interviewing aims to motivate clients to make changes in their life in a non-judgmental way. Practitioners guide clients in identifying a problem they’d like to overcome and supporting change. Clients guide the process, and practitioners guide clients by prompting motivations for change and supporting actions towards change.

Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) aims to help people who have experienced trauma. It views problems related to trauma, like post-traumatic stress disorder, as the result of a fragmented account (narrative) of the client’s experiences. In NET, the practitioner uses skills from cognitive-behavioural therapy to help the client understand and process the traumatic event and fit the fragments into a more complete story.

Neurofeedback therapy or Electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback uses sounds or images to show the client their own brain activity and physical responses to thoughts and emotions. It believes that if the client can see problem, they can re-train the brain to work properly.

Parent training refers to any program that helps parents build strong, healthy relationships in the family and teaches parenting techniques that support their children’s good mental health. Parenting training may address concerns around disciplinary skills, disruptive behaviours, nurturing, and social skills.

Partner-assisted cognitive-behavioural exposure therapy includes the client’s partner in exposure approaches in a course of cognitive-behavioural therapy. Exposure involves controlled and gradual introduction to a situation that causes a lot of fear or anxiety for the client. The goal is to desensitize the client and teach them skills to challenge the thinking patterns that drive their fear or anxiety. Including the client’s partner may increase the client’s success in overcoming fear or anxiety.

Psychodynamic therapy or Insight-oriented therapy focuses on the client’s past behaviours. It views current problems as related to unhelpful processes that are adopted, without realizing it, early in life. Psychodynamic therapy can vary depending on the client and the challenges they wish to address. It usually involves a strong relationships between the client and practitioner, which allows the practitioner and client to understand (or gain insight into) these unresolved issues from the past and their impact on the present day.

Psychosocial treatment refers to any psychological or social approach that aims to improve the lives of those whose who experience a mental illness and their families. It includes therapy, psychoeducation (learning about mental health and mental illnesses), social skills training, educational opportunities, vocational (work) skills and opportunities, and more.

Schema-focused therapy (SFT) or Schema therapy (ST) uses elements of cognitive-behavioural therapy and applies them to deeply held beliefs (schemas) and past and current patterns of thoughts, feeling, and behaviours. The goal is to identify and address unhealthy patterns that developed earlier in life, which may improve a client’s sense of identity, relationships with others, and ability to manage strong emotions. You can learn more about SFT at

Short-term dynamic psychotherapy or Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy (ISTDP) focuses on painful or difficult feelings that the client is unable to fully process. When the client experiences depression, anxiety, or even unexplained physical health concerns, this therapy views the cause as the client’s inability to experience their true feelings about the past and present.

Stress inoculation training (SIT) is a type of behaviour therapy that aims to help people change very negative thought reactions to different situations or events. It views stress as a reaction to negative self-talk, and exposes clients to increasing levels of stress to build new coping techniques. It’s based in part on cognitive-behavioural therapy.

Systemic couples therapy or Systemic therapy is very similar to family therapy. It sees the client’s problems or concerns as the result of problems with the important relationships in their lives.

Transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP) is based on the relationship between client and practitioner. By observing the client in their daily life, the practitioner aims to identify and understand patterns in everyday experiences that contribute to a client’s unstable understanding of themselves and others. You can learn more about TFP at

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