With so many types of counselling approaches out there, which one’s right for you?

Types of Therapies

Just as there over 100 different types of therapy approaches, there are 100s of results for definitions of the different types. This one I’ve taken from the UK Counselling Directory which I  think is really comprehensive. When deciding on an appropriate counsellor or psychotherapist, it is useful to understand the different therapies they may use. Although all can be effective, you may find one approach more appealing than another, or find that some approaches are better for a certain area of counselling or psychotherapy than others. You’ll find me under “Humanistic” therapies.

Psychological therapies generally fall into three categories. These are behavioural therapies, which focus on cognitions and behaviours, psychoanalytical and psychodynamic therapies, which focus on the unconscious relationship patterns that evolved from childhood, and humanistic therapies, which focus on self-development in the ‘here and now’.

This is a generalisation though and counselling or psychotherapy usually overlaps some of these techniques. Some counsellors or psychotherapists practice a form of ‘integrative‘ therapy, which means they draw on and blend specific types of techniques. Other practitioners work in an ‘eclectic‘ way, which means they take elements of several different models and combine them when working with clients. There are also a number of specific other therapies that can be used.

Below is a summary of some of the psychological therapies available. To find out further information on any approach, click on the link at the bottom of the relevant section.

Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies

Behavioural Therapies are based on the way you think (cognitive) and/or the way you behave. These therapies recognise that it is possible to change, or recondition, our thoughts or behaviour to overcome specific problems.

› Behavioural Therapy

Behavioural Therapy focuses on an individual’s learnt, or conditioned, behaviour and how this can be changed. The approach assumes that if a behaviour can be learnt, then it can be unlearnt (or reconditioned) so is useful for dealing with issues such as phobias or addictions.

› Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive Therapy deals with thoughts and perceptions, and how these can affect feelings and behaviour. By reassessing negative thoughts an individual can learn more flexible, positive ways of thinking, which can ultimately affect their feelings and behaviour towards those thoughts.

› Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) combines cognitive and behavioural therapies. The approach focuses on thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and actions, and teaches clients how each one can have an affect on the other. CBT is useful for dealing with a number of issues, including depression, anxiety and phobias.

Find out more about Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies ›

Psychoanalytical and Psychodynamic Therapies

Psychoanalytical and psychodynamic therapies are based on an individual’s unconscious thoughts and perceptions that have developed throughout their childhood, and how these affect their current behaviour and thoughts.

› Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis was developed by Sigmund Freud and focuses on an individual’s unconscious, deep-rooted thoughts that often stem from childhood. Through free associations, dreams or fantasies, clients can learn how to interpret deeply buried memories or experiences that may be causing them distress.

› Psychoanalytic Therapy

Based on Psychoanalysis, Psychoanalytic Therapy also focuses on how an individual’s unconscious thoughts are influencing them. However, Psychoanalytic Therapy is usually less intensive than Psychoanalysis.

› Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic Therapy evolved from Psychoanalytic Therapy and seeks to discover how unconscious thoughts affect current behaviour. Psychodynamic Therapy usually focuses on more immediate problems and attempts to provide a quicker solution.

Find out more about Psychoanalytical and Psychodynamic Therapies ›

Humanistic Therapies

Humanistic Therapies focus on self-development, growth and responsibilities. They seek to help individuals recognise their strengths, creativity and choice in the ‘here and now’.

› Person-Centred Counselling (also known as “Client-Centred” or Rogerian” counselling)

Person-Centred Counselling focuses on an individual’s self worth and values. Being valued as a person, without being judged, can help an individual to accept who they are, and reconnect with themselves.

› Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt Therapy can be roughly translated to ‘whole’ and focuses on the whole of an individual’s experience, including their thoughts, feelings and actions. Gaining self-awareness in the ‘here and now’ is a key aspect of Gestalt Therapy.

› Transactional Analysis

Transactional Analysis is based on the theory that we each have three ego states: Parent, Adult and Child. By recognising ego-states, Transactional Analysis attempts to identify how individuals communicate, and how this can be changed.

› Transpersonal Psychology and Psychosynthesis

Transpersonal Psychology means “beyond the personal” and seeks to discover the person who transcends an individual’s body, age, appearance, culture etc. Psychosynthesis aims to discover a higher, spiritual level of conciousness.

› Existential Therapy

Existential Therapy focuses on exploring the meaning of certain issues through a philosophical perspective, instead of a technique-based approach.

Find out more about Humanistic Therapies ›

Other Therapies

Although psychological therapies generally fall into the three categories above, there are also a number of specific therapies too.

› Family/Systemic Therapy

Family Therapy, also known as Systemic Therapy, is an approach that works with families and those in close relationships, regardless of whether they are blood related or not, to foster change. Changes are viewed in terms of the systems of interaction between each person in the family.

› Art Therapy/Art Psychotherapy

Art Therapy or Art Psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art materials such as paints, clay and paper. These tools are used to communicate issues, emotions and feelings and can provide an insight into any conflicts that may be present.

› Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that was developed in the 1980s by American clinical psychologist Dr Francine Shapiro. EMDR is used to treat psychological traumas, such as war experiences, natural disasters, road accidents, rape and assault.

› Integrative

Integrative counselling means drawing on and blending specific types of therapies. This approach is not linked to one particular type of therapy as those practising integrative counselling do not believe that only one approach works for each client in all situations.

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