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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Lomanov, Psy.D.

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to "Talk Therapy"

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Part 2 of 2 (read Part 1 here)

Deciding to start therapy is not an easy choice, especially when you’re not sure what you have to gain. In my last post, I reviewed potential pros and cons of a few of the most well-known therapy traditions: CBT, DBT, and ACT. This week, I break down prolonged exposure, psychodynamic and family/couples therapy, and process groups.

Prolonged Exposure/TF-CBT (Trauma-Focused CBT)

This therapy is designed for individuals who have experienced a traumatic event from which they struggle to move on.


  • good for PTSD (single event)

  • focus on exposure to trauma triggers to build tolerance and reduce symptoms

  • progress depends on willingness, commitment, and pace of the trauma survivor

  • teaches short-term coping and distress tolerance skills


  • not as helpful for those with a history of traumatic experiences (e.g., complex trauma)

  • can be highly distressing in the short-term

  • focus is directed on the trauma event with little attention to other aspects of life


There are many different kinds of therapy (e.g., psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, relational psychotherapy, etc.) that fall under this umbrella, but these are the elements that they all tend to have in common.


  • good for complex disorders/traumas, relational difficulties, and most other disorders

  • focus on understanding patterns in relationships and developing insight

  • strong emphasis on therapeutic relationship

  • strives to improve quality of life, rather than symptom reduction

  • benefits tend to be long-term

  • fosters independence and self-awareness


  • no practical advice for those in crisis

  • can be uncomfortable for those who rely on structure

  • may not be as helpful for individuals in early treatment for drug/alcohol recovery, self-harm behaviors, and/or eating disorders who struggle regularly with relapse


  • unstructured, no therapist agenda

  • no time limits

Family/Couples Therapy:

There are multiple different ways of conducting family and couples therapy. Overall, these forms of therapy are designed to help couples and families:


  • learn to build intimacy with each other

  • confront unresolved traumas and conflicts

  • practice negotiating conflicts in effective ways

  • increase each party's awareness of his or her own role in maintaining the often unhealthy dynamics at play in their relationships

Because of the focus on creating effective communication and increasing empathy for others in session, patients can experience change more rapidly than they might in individual therapy.

Alternatively, it can be...


  • more difficult to achieve change in high-conflict couples and families because individuals may have different levels of commitment to change

Also, this form of therapy is fairly directive, so...

  • patients who have difficulty accepting direction may have difficulty committing to treatment

Process Group Therapy:

Group therapy is often a great adjunct to individual therapy. Process groups are designed to help individuals learn about themselves from live feedback from other group members. This can help people...


  • bond with others

  • learn about how they function in relationships

  • build comfort with being vulnerable around others

However, there is also...


  • greater opportunity for conflict in group than in individual therapy

  • less individual attention per group member

  • It can be hard to find a group that is a good “fit”

Now that you have a little more knowledge about the various options available to you, hopefully making the choice to start your journey is easier than you thought.


about the author

photo by @lebishphotography

My passion is helping people connect with their most authentic selves. Through this blog, I hope to offer resources to demystify psychotherapy and encourage you to think about your mental wellness.

In my integrative psychotherapy practice in Echo Park, my mission is to support you in finding your best self and living an examined life.


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