The Top Treatment Orientations Potential Clients Search For

Jeff Guenther on Jul 24, 2017

As you probably know by now, I run a popular mental health directory in Portland. Users of the site are able to do a simple search to find a therapist that treats their presenting issue and is located in their preferred zip code. However, if they chose to perform a more advanced search, they are presented with the option to look for a therapist that specializes in a specific treatment orientation, such as mindfulness, EMDR and gestalt. 

Searching for a therapist based on psychological theory was not an option when the site initially launched four years ago. However, I received an overwhelming amount of feedback from users of the site that they wanted to have the ability to search for a therapist by treatment type. The main reason I didn’t include this option when I launched the site was because I figured most users of the site wouldn’t have enough understanding, knowledge or desire to look for a specific treatment style. While users may not have comprehensive knowledge of psychological theories, many of them do want to filter therapists by treatment type. So I decided to give the community what they wanted and I added the feature to the site. 

Here are the results after over 10,000 searches

It’s been a little over a year since I added treatment orientations to PTC and over 10,000 users have searched for a therapists using that filter. With over 13,000 visits to PTC per month, 10,000 is not that large of a percentage. But it is a large enough sample size for us to understand what therapy seekers are looking for when it comes to treatment style. One interesting fact is that out of the 55 treatments users can select, the top six take up just over 50%. If you’d like to download the full list of treatment orientations, ranked by popularity, you can click here and I’ll email it to you. For now, let’s take a look at the top six.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 19.2%

Is it really any surprise that good old CBT lands in the top spot? Even though some recent reports indicate that CBT is falling out of fashion and is less effective over time, it remains the most popular treatment orientation with clients. And I get why. It sounds super appealing to clients, right? You don’t have to dive into the past and dig up old wounds. It can be short-term therapy, which means you’ll only be in for a handful of sessions. And all you have to do is change the way you think and behave. Viola! Sounds great to me! And almost 20% of therapy seekers. (Side note: I am a therapist and I know CBT isn’t a quick fix. I am just imagining what clients might be thinking.)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) 8%

It’s not surprising to me that EMDR snagged second place in popularity. Many of the users that were asking me to include treatment orientation as a search filter were folks that wanted to find a counselor that specified in providing EMDR. The treatment continues to gain popularity and is being adopted by more and more therapists who want to add the skill to their repertoire. And it’s no longer only being used for veterans. It can be successfully applied in the treatment of many different types of traumas. And whether accurate or not, clients are being told that it can be a quick fix to a deep-seeded problem that has been haunting them for a lifetime. 

Mindfulness Based 6.2%

Since the turn of the century, mindfulness based interventions have been hot on CBT’s tail as the up and coming treatment de jour. Mindfulness may have the same appeal as CBT, but both focus on paying attention to your thoughts (or not paying attention to your thoughts) and allow clients to avoid dredging up the past. Mindfulness is also represented heavily in pop culture, so that is probably something that people are already familiar with. Which creates a sense of trust and accessibility that most other therapy styles don’t have. 

Somatic Therapy Body Centered 5.8%

Body Centered therapy is the surprise here for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am true believer that if we tap into our body and listen to what it is saying, it definitely has some wisdom to communicate. I just didn’t know that so many lay people also knew that somatic therapy had so much to offer. However, this could be an indicator of what I was fearing when I first launched the site. Clients may think that Body Centered therapy is appealing because they don’t understand exactly what it is. That’s the risk of allowing folks to filter by treatment style. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) 5.7%

What if CBT and Mindfulness got together and had a baby? You’d have DBT! Right? So of course DBT is going to be high on the list. It is a short-term therapy that also avoids spending forever digging up the past. DBT offers a zillion different tools for clients to carry around in their tool belt, so the appeal is definitely understandable. 

Emotionally Focused 5.4%

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a popular form of therapy, especially for couples. This treatment orientation, along with Body Centered, may be getting selected so often because of its name, rather than a deep understanding of its methodology. I imagine many people would want their counseling to be focused on emotions. Choosing Emotionally Focused Therapy would make perfect sense in that regard. However, I think the popular books by Dr. Sue Johnson could also be impacting the EFT’s ranking. 

If you would like to see how popular your treatment styles are, download the full list by clicking here


How to use this information 

It can be useful to know what clients are looking for when seeking therapy services so you can market your skills effectively. If you use any of the above treatment orientations, it would be smart to feature them on your website, possibly with a dedicated page, since over 50% of people are seeking these intervention types. If you don’t use the featured treatment orientations, nothing to worry about! According to my data, only a small percentage (just over 5%) of potential clients search using that filter.

As mental health providers, it is our job to provide accurate and realistic expectations of what different types of treatments can offer. Providing information on what treatment orientations you practice, and how that is actualized in session, can be educational and extremely reassuring for potential clients, who may not know what to expect from therapy. I attempt to educate clients through my therapist directory (and in my own private practice) about what these treatment orientations really are and how they play out. It is also important to stress that simply having a trusting relationship with a therapist can often be the most important factor in the therapeutic process.

Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005. Jeff is the creator and owner of Portland Therapy Center, a highly ranked therapist directory. Jeff, and his team, have launched a new progressive therapist directory, TherapyDen.

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