How Can Insight Therapy Help You?

One of the primary reasons why therapy or counseling can sometimes fail is a lack of insight on the part of the client. The gaining of insight has been a key component in the success of psychoanalysis since its inception.

While there are actions people take and words that are uttered without deliberate thought, there is a subconscious idea of some sort behind them.

It is often not until introduced to the concept of metacognition that we begin thinking about how individuals are able to gain insight into their actions.

In this article, you will learn insight therapy, the various types of it, and how it can be helpful for specific conditions and our relationships with others.

What is insight therapy?

Insight therapy is a type of treatment that helps you see the reasons for your negative behaviors, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. The idea is that once you know that you are the one controlling all of these things, you will be able to make the necessary changes.

Sigmund Freud began using insight therapy back in the early 1900s at the Psychoanalyst School of Psychology. Therapists may try to get to the root of your issues by talking about your past or your childhood to determine what may be the trigger to these feelings.

This is an indirect type of therapy that lets you do most of the talking rather than having the therapist ask the questions and lead you to where they believe the problems might be, like with behavior therapy.

Insight therapy is more like a friendly chat rather than a therapy session, and many people feel more comfortable with this type of therapy. Even though it is still a form of psychotherapy, it lets you discover how your past influences your current actions and behaviors.

Different Types of Insight Therapy

There are different types of insight therapy, and some are used more than others in the psychiatry field. The four types of insight therapy include psychoanalysis; cognitive; humanistic; and group, family, and marital therapies.

Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Therapy. Sigmund Freud started insight therapy in the early 1900s with psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy.

Some of the techniques used in this therapy are as follows:

  • free association;
  • dream analysis;
  • analyzing resistance;
  • analyzing transference;
  • interpretation.

Cognitive therapy focuses on beliefs and thought patterns that may be faulty and how to change them. By talking about your negative behaviors and feelings, you will be able to change your own outcome. There are two main types of cognitive therapy:

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) – This helps decrease self-defeating beliefs by rationally examining your beliefs and consequences.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) – This confronts your behaviors head-on and helps you learn ways to change them.

Focuses on your personal growth with emotional reconstruction. The assumption is that you are blocking your own natural growth potential and, as a consequence, have become self-destructive.

Our client-centered therapy focuses on your own instinct to become healthy and productive. Some of the techniques include the following:

  • active listening;
  • genuineness;
  • unconditional positive regard;
  • empathy.

Group, family, and marital therapies. This includes several ways to help groups of people who share the same issues.

Group therapy involves a group of people all interested in the same outcome while working toward similar goals. For example, there are depression groups that work with people who have depression and anxiety groups that work with patients who have anxiety disorders.

Family therapy involves the whole family when there is a problem within the family dynamic, such as alcohol use disorder, abuse, or divorce.

Marital therapy works with a married couple to help them with their issues and learn effective ways to communicate.

Please learn more about related therapies

Cognitive Behavioral

A short-term therapy technique that helps find new ways to behave by changing your thought patterns.


A time-limited, focused, evidence-based approach to treat mood disorders.

Cognitive Analytic

A type of therapy that marries together ideas from analytic psychology with those from cognitive therapy.

Different Types of Insight Theories

Below, we’ll discuss the different theories related to insight therapy.

Dual Process Theory of Insight

According to the dual-process theory of insight, there are two steps to solving problems. The first step is to use analytical and logical thought processes that are based on reason. The second step uses your intuition and the automatic “gut feeling” process that is based on your experiences.

Three Process Theory of Insight

With this theory, your intelligence has a key role in gaining insight, but there are three processes that include selective encoding, combination, and comparison.

Selective Encoding is done by focusing your attention on the ideas that are relevant to finding a solution, and it ignores everything else.

Selective Combination is when you combine both the relevant and that which was previously deemed relevant.

Selective Comparison uses your past experiences with the solutions and

Four-Stage Model

There are four stages of insight, which include preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. Each one is just as important as the others, and you have to go through all four stages to gain the insight you need to improve your state of mind.

Preparation: First, you have to prepare to solve the problem by looking at all of the aspects.

For example, if you are having trouble with your self-esteem, you may want to look at what may have happened to you in the past that caused this.

Some of the common triggers of low self-esteem include childhood abuse, bullying, neglect, and violence at home.

Incubation: After you determine what may be the cause, you will need plenty of time to think about the problem. This period will include possible solutions, brainstorming, trial, and error.

Illumination: This is the lightbulb moment. Are you familiar with the lightbulb above a character’s head in various cartoons? It is the “Aha” moment when you realize what the solution to the problem is and wonder why you had not seen it before.

Verification: Even though you figured out the solution, this last step is necessary for you to know that your answer is correct. This is especially important for a person with low self-esteem because they tend to doubt themselves.

The verification can come from your therapist saying you are right, but it is more important for you to realize that you are right by experiencing the results for yourself.

Thinking About Our Actions and Relationships

Metacognitive and insight therapies have proven beneficial to those who have compulsion disorders.

When an individual has anxiety or an obsessive-compulsive disorder, they may perform actions on a ritualistic basis to alleviate the stress. These compulsions can often create dysfunction in a person’s life.

For example, an individual who leaves the house for work or school and becomes extremely obsessed that the door has been left unlocked or the clothing iron left on might turn back around and return home.

This behavior will continue despite the number of times the door is found locked or the clothing iron turned off. If this individual is successful in ignoring the compulsion and therefore does not act upon it, they are likely to obsess about it all day.

When faced with this compulsion, there are two choices: 1) Return home to double-check and risk being late or 2) Ignore the compulsion and experience anxiety for the remainder of the day.

A therapist who uses metacognitive and insight therapy will have the individual explore the underlying reasoning behind the compulsion. There may be something from the past, or there could be something on a subconscious level that is bothering them.

By exploring their thought process and pattern of behavior, the individual may gain valuable insight into the underlying cause of the fear of leaving the door unlocked or the clothing iron turned on.

It may be that the individual has concerns about the safety of their family or feels guilt over a past incident in which the safety of a child or other loved one was placed in jeopardy.

Using the locked door as an example, the individual may have some paranoia about break-ins or fear of “letting someone in” to their personal life.

The compulsions and associated rituals may bring temporary relief to the individual, but they are also dysfunctions and can cause problems in both personal and work relationships.

When a thought process or a behavioral pattern interferes with how an individual functions, it is considered a mental health disorder.

According to research into the area of anxiety and compulsive disorders, unearthing the underlying fear or concern can often mitigate further dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors.

Insight therapy may also benefit those who have interpersonal relationships at work or at home. If relationships are complicated due to constant misunderstandings and bickering, there may be an underlying issue that is causing the behavior.

Using metacognitive strategies can be highly effective in aiding the individual in gaining the necessary insight to change their thought patterns as well as their associated behaviors.

No one is comfortable when their lives have become dysfunctional. However, we are often trapped in a cycle of irrational thought processes and dysfunctional behavioral patterns. Seeking the help of an in-person or online therapist who specializes in any of the above types of insight therapy may be of benefit.

If you do not have the time to travel to a therapist’s office, you might want to consider online therapy.  A study has shown that online therapy can feel more personal than traditional therapy.

96% of people using online therapy reported feeling a personal connection with their online therapists as opposed to 91 percent who saw face-to-face therapists.

They were also more invested in completing homework the therapists assigned them and occasionally reviewed correspondence between them and their therapists, leading them to move forward with their lives.