What Is a Therapy Modality?

Updated August 18, 2022

What is a modality in therapy? Learn about some of the most common counseling treatment modalities and how they work in this introductory guide.

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Therapy modalities, also called counseling modalities, comprise different categories of therapy. They are similar to physical therapy, which involves different techniques, such as heat, cold, ultrasound, or taping, to treat an injury. Psychological therapy modalities include different approaches to improving a patient's overall well-being.

This mental health treatment modalities list includes some of the most common modalities and how they work.

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Common Therapy Modalities

CBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) focuses on changing thinking patterns. For example, a therapist and client work together to identify thoughts that have a negative impact on the patient's mental health and replace them with healthier alternatives.

This counseling modality works best with self-esteem, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety and depression, and other conditions that create or are based on patterns of negative thoughts.

EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR is a therapy modality mostly used for post-traumatic stress disorder. During a session, the patient recalls a traumatic event under the therapist's guidance, while moving their eyes in a specific pattern. This can help the patient to reduce the stress associated with the event.

Art Therapy/Expressive Arts Therapy

Art therapy and other forms of expressive arts therapies use art techniques to help patients understand and process their thoughts and feelings. Patients do not need artistic training or artistic talent to benefit from this modality.

Frequently Asked Questions


What kind of therapy modality will work for me?

You'll gain the best results by working with a therapist you trust who uses a therapy modality you see as the best match for your needs.

What are good trauma therapy modalities?

Evidence-based therapy modalities for trauma include EMDR, art therapy, CBT, and behavior therapy. Animal-assisted therapy, mindfulness, and prolonged exposure can also be used.

The right counseling modality for any individual depends on their specific needs.

What is a therapy modality for OCD?

Exposure and response prevention therapy (either in a real-life situation or an imagined situation) and CBT are both evidence-based counseling modalities for OCD.

What are the main types of counseling modalities?

Most therapy modalities include the following:

Featured Image: Vadym Petrochenko / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

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