Mental Psychotherapy Treatment: Insight-Oriented Therapy

Mental Psychotherapy Treatment: Insight-Oriented Therapy

August 3, 2021

Insight-oriented therapy is a client-centered type of talk therapy that questions “how well do you know yourself.” Also known as insight therapy, insight-oriented therapy strives to guide your teen towards developing a better, improved understanding of self. It is an approach to mental health and wellness that focuses on helping your teen understand how their inner motivations and workings lead to struggles or victories over mental health. Insight-oriented therapy follows the premise that the better you understand how your past has shaped your future, the better you can move forward in a happy, healthy way from current mental health struggles.

How Does Insight-Oriented Therapy Help?

Insight is defined as “the power or act of seeing into a situation.” It is the ability to gain a better, more accurate awareness of a situation or event. Insight-oriented psychotherapy models help teens (and adults) understand how the circumstances or events from their past adversely impact their current thoughts, behaviors, and actions, whether conscious or unconscious. Gaining clearer insight about how the past projects on the future can help clarify the reasoning behind one’s current emotions and actions.

The idea of insight-oriented therapy is not new. Sigmund Freud, the founding father of psychoanalysis and one of the most notable figures in the field of psychology, began using insight-oriented therapy in the early 1900s at the Psychoanalyst School of Psychology. Using a combination of psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy, he developed the insight-oriented model. Insight-oriented therapy is a traditional form of “talk therapy” that digs into how life events, past and current relationships, unconscious conflicts, and conscious and unconscious desires contribute to mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression.

Insight-oriented therapy draws on several evidence-based therapeutic techniques, including dream association, analyzing transference, interpretation, free analysis, and analyzing resistance. Insight-oriented therapy follows the premise that the better you know yourself, the better you can function.

The Insight-Oriented Therapy Process

For insight-oriented therapy to be successful, your teen must be relaxed and have a trusting relationship with their mental health provider at Hillcrest. This allows for a healthy, successful therapeutic relationship. Without trust, your teen will likely remain guarded about their deepest and most troubling feelings, emotions, and thoughts, significantly limiting their opportunities for treatment success.

During a treatment session, your teen and their therapist will focus on the types of actions, behaviors, and compromises your teen makes to actively defend themselves from painful thoughts or emotions. They will then take these realizations and examine how they relate to your teen’s current stress and anxiety. Insight-oriented therapy focuses on the past as it is believed one’s feelings about their past or early life experiences greatly influence current behaviors. It is for this reason that your teen must be willing to share profound, intimate life events in complete honesty.

During conversations as part of the therapy process, the therapist will ask guided questions and use verbal prompts to help your teen reach a defining or clarifying moment (what one may call an “ah-ha moment”) concerning their problems. These new insights or breakthroughs allow your teen to feel empowered to look at their current symptoms in a new, more realistic way. This eventually leads to improved self-understanding and self-awareness.

Types of Insight-Oriented Therapies

There are three main types of insight-oriented therapy. Each draws on one or more theories of psychotherapy and therapeutic techniques. The type of therapy that works best will vary from person to person based on their specific mental health and unique treatment needs and goals. As with many mental health treatment programs, what works best for one person may not work well or at all for someone else. For this reason, it is essential to work closely with your teen’s mental health treatment team at Hillcrest to develop a comprehensive treatment plan focused on your teen’s specific concerns.


Psychoanalysis is often closely associated with the work and teachings of Sigmund Freud; however, it has been modified and transformed in many ways since its creation. When used as part of insight-oriented therapy, psychoanalysis aims to dig deep into one’s life experiences and current unconscious thoughts. Unconscious thoughts are the thoughts we have but are not necessarily aware of on the surface. These underlying thoughts can have a significant impact on our day-to-day emotions, behaviors, and overall mental health. Unconscious thoughts are believed to be the current cause of ones existing mental health problems.

Once your teen has a better understanding of their unconscious thoughts and the impacts of those thoughts, they will work with their therapist to learn new, healthier methods of avoiding negative thought patterns. By gaining a healthier, perhaps different, viewpoint on the influences of the past, your teen may be better able to reduce the impact of unconscious difficulties in the present.

Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy focuses on your teen’s ability and capacity to make rational choices that allow them to develop to their full potential. Respect for the emotions of others and concern for others are valuable themes in this therapeutic model. There are three types of humanistic therapy that are influential components of the treatment model.

Client-Centered Therapy

Client-centered therapy rejects the idea that therapists are authorities on their clients’ innermost personal experiences. Instead, practitioners of client-centered therapy help their clients to change by emphasizing their concern and interest for their emotional well-being as opposed to focusing on their ability to control or adjust how their client feels.

Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt Therapy focuses on the value of being self-aware and aware of the here and now by accepting responsibility for yourself, your behaviors, and your actions. Instead of focusing on one’s past, Gestalt therapy focuses on one’s present life and the challenges they face today. The Gestalt approach stresses the value of understanding the context of one’s life and taking responsibility rather than placing blame for one’s circumstances. Gestalt therapy was introduced in the 1049s as an alternative approach to traditional psychoanalysis.

Existential Therapy

Existential therapy focuses on the concepts of self-determination, the search for meaning in one’s life, and free will. It places focus on the human condition as a whole. Existential therapy uses a positive approach that focuses on the benefits and strengths of human capability, capacity, and aspirations while also acknowledging human limitations.

Integrative or Holistic Therapy

Integrative or holistic therapies are not necessarily a specific approach to psychotherapy. Instead, these therapy models combine and blend elements from different approaches to talk therapy (psychotherapy) and tailor their treatment according to their client’s unique and specific needs.

Why Choose Insight-Oriented Therapy?

There are many benefits two insight-oriented psychotherapy. This therapy model can help your teen understand the reasons for many behaviors and emotions, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, mood disorders, disordered eating, substance abuse, and complicated social and family relationships.

Insight-oriented therapy can help your team improve their mental health by gaining awareness and a clearer understanding of their deepest “self.” It can benefit one’s mental health by helping to create a better sense of self-awareness and encouraging basic and vital skills needed for growth and an active attitude towards life. It can also help your teen take more responsibility for their own development and life experiences by emphasizing the value of empowerment.

Insight Oriented Therapy vs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT is a very popular therapy model used to treat many mental health struggles and concerns. While not specifically categorized as an insight therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy is used as an extension of insight-oriented therapy. Insight therapy sessions are focused on the premise that improving one’s self-understanding skills will promote a positive change in their life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy encourages one to confront their behaviors and actions directly so they can learn and practice ways to change them. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is often less concerned with insight or meaning behind symptoms and more focused on thoughts, beliefs, and actions that are present in the moment.

Insight-Oriented Therapy vs. Psychodynamic Therapy

Insight-oriented therapy is a form of psychotherapy; however, it is often less formal than a psychodynamic therapy session. Although the settings and procedures vary, psychodynamic therapy is often used as an insight-oriented process. Depending on the individual, the informal nature of insight-oriented therapy sessions can be uncomfortable and difficult. Some individuals struggle with the open, conversational nature of the insight-oriented process and find a more guided, structured approach easier to navigate. The reverse is also true, and some teens find the ability to sit and “talk” to a trusted person outside of the family unit highly beneficial to developing a stronger understanding of how their past may impact their current mental health.

There are many situations where insight-oriented therapy may be beneficial for your teen. The insight-oriented approach has proven successful with issues such as disordered eating, personality disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders. For teens, it can also help manage academic struggles, family dysfunction, and issues with personal relationships with family or loved ones. This is especially true for relationship struggles and family struggles that stem from early childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma.

At Hillcrest, our caring and compassionate treatment team will work with you and your family to design a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment program that considers their specific treatment needs and goals. There are many beneficial and successful mental health treatment models for teens. Our treatment professionals will work with your family to determine the best treatment course for your teen.  If you would like to learn more about insight-oriented therapy and the other treatment models we provide at our teen-focused Los Angeles treatment center, reach out to our admissions team today. Let us help your teen take the first steps towards health and healing.