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Sometimes clients in therapy need guidance in developing awareness as to why they feel certain negative emotions or act in maladaptive ways. Insight therapy can help clients with developing this insight.

Learn the definition, types, and examples of insight therapy in this lesson.

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What Is Insight Therapy?

Maria doesn’t feel secure nor desirable, so when a man acts interested in her, she quickly becomes desperate, needy, and overly attached until he finally breaks up with her. Maria sees a therapist who helps her gain insight about the things that have caused her adulthood insecurities, like the facts that she was emotionally abused by her mother and bullied by classmates as a child.

Insight is the ability to acquire a new accurate awareness or comprehension about a thing or person. Insight therapy is a type of therapy that helps clients understand how events in their past are negatively influencing their current thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This type of treatment can be quite empowering for clients because it is identifying the source of their problems. Identifying the reasons they have low self-esteem, insecurity, depression, anxiety, etc. is the first step towards resolving those conflicts and issues.A harmonious client-counselor rapport must be established for insight therapy to work. As with most cases in therapy, clients must develop enough trust in their therapists in order to reveal their deepest and most troubling experiences, thoughts, and emotions.

Clients must divulge details of troubled relationships in the past, difficulties with caregivers or parents growing up, any instances of abuse, or severed ties with family members. This is critical in order for insight therapists to fully comprehend the roots of their client’s problems.

Types of Insight Therapy

Now let’s look at the five different types of insight therapy.


First we have psychoanalysis. Founded by Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis delves deep into a client’s past and brings to light past experiences and current unconscious thoughts and behaviors of the client that are believed to be the cause of their current problems.

Specifically, it targets how inner drives such as the id, superego, and ego conflict with outside pressures such as culture or religious obligations. Usually, psychoanalysis is intensive, about two to three sessions a week for several years. The client typically lies on a couch and just talks, also known as free association, with very little therapist interruption.

Sigmund Freud was the father of psychoanalysis

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is like psychoanalysis in that its goal is to discover the root of emotional suffering, but it is much shorter and more modernized than psychoanalysis therapy. Psychodynamic therapy delves into how dynamics in one’s life affect one’s current emotional state or psyche.

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy works on resolving a client’s conflicted interpersonal relationships. Interpersonal therapy operates on the belief that client disorders, such as depression, are caused in large part by troubled relationships, and if clients learn skills in communication and conflict resolution, they can work towards mending those relationships.

Client-Centered Therapy

Client-centered therapy, like all other insight therapies, requires a great rapport between the client and therapist. The therapist establishes this relationship by being genuine, actively listening to the client, not using judgment, and providing empathy.

Instead of the therapist always giving explanations as to why a client is feeling a certain way, the therapist guides the client to develop that insight themselves in client-centered therapy.

Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt therapy is more focused on the present moment. The goal of Gestalt is to help the client gain insights that their dread and guilt about the past and worry about the future are what cause their suffering. Gestalt therapy also focuses on helping clients be themselves instead of trying to be someone else. Once clients accept being their true selves while embracing the present moment, they can acquire self-actualization.

Examples of Insight Therapy

Scenario One: Robert and Claire

Robert and Claire seek marital counseling. Claire’s number one issue with Robert is that he is always making her late for events such as dinners, parties, and even weddings. Robert says that he despises Claire’s nagging about being late and that it makes him so angry and irritated that he actually becomes less motivated to try to be on time. The therapist delves into Claire and Robert’s past experiences and upbringing regarding the issue of timeliness.Claire reveals that her father was in the military and reiterated to her time and again growing up that tardiness was the ultimate sign of disrespect. Robert, on the other hand, grew up with a family that never rushed to be on time because they preferred not to feel stressed.

Robert is now able to see that, to Claire, his tardiness is a sign of disrespect, even towards her. Claire, on the other hand, can see that Robert’s tardiness is a result of his easygoing upbringing, not something to take as personally. Now both can work towards how they will compromise and resolve this issue together in therapy.

Scenario Two: Vince

Vince is frustrated because he has been in the same stagnant position at work for seven years.

He has had a few opportunities to apply for a supervisory or managerial position but never has. He doesn’t know why he always hesitates to move forward in his company.In insight therapy, Vince realizes that his father focused on perfectionism and constantly belittled and criticized Vince if he achieved anything less than perfect.

Vince learned to stop trying in fear that he would fail and not live up to his father’s expectations. It didn’t take long for Vince to realize that his failure to apply for higher positions was due to his fear of failure. After gaining this insight, Vince learned how to change his mind set and thinking so that he could gain the confidence and motivation to advance his career.

Lesson Summary

Insight is an ability to acquire a new accurate awareness or comprehension about a thing or person. Insight therapy is a type of therapy that helps clients understand how events in their past are negatively influencing their current thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

For clients who have problems but don’t understand the roots of their problems, insight therapy can be quite revealing and empowering. A good client-counselor rapport and trusting relationship is imperative in insight therapy. Five types of insight therapy include psychoanalysis, psychodynamic, interpersonal, client-centered, and Gestalt therapies.

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