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 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 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 ›
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 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.
Believe in Yourself: The Psychological Bill of Rights
As adult human beings we all have certain basic rights. Often, though, we have either forgotten them or as children we were never taught to believe in them. Developing assertiveness involves recognising that you, just as much as anyone else, have a right to all of the things listed under the Personal Bill of Rights. Assertiveness involves taking responsibility to exercise these rights in situations where they are threatened or infringed upon. Read through the Bill of Rights below and reflect on your willingness to believe in and exercise each one. Sticking to all of them or just a few could be the key to finding your freedom and happiness!
1. I have the right to ask for what I want.
2. I have the right to say no to requests or demands I can’t meet.
3.I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative.
4.I have the right to change my mind.
5.I have the right to make mistakes and not be perfect.
6.I have the right to follow my own values and standards.
7. I have the right to say no.
8. I have the right to determine my own priorities.
9.I have the right not to be responsible for others behaviours, actions, feelings or problems.
10.I have the right to be angry with someone I love.
11.I have the right to be myself.
12. I have the right to say I’m scared or afraid.
13. I have the right to say I don’t know.
14. I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behaviour.
15. I have the right to made decisions based on my feelings.
16. I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
17. I have the right to change and grow.
18. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
19. I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
20. I have the right to be happy.
How to Choose a Counsellor or Therapist
Getting to the stage where you’ve decided you need to see a counsellor is a really big step and then trying to find the right counsellor is the next big thing in the process. If you’re anything like me, you may start with a search in your area hoping to find a face or a description of a counsellor that jumps out at you, or, if you’re lucky, you may be able to speak to a close friend or colleague who can recommend someone who could be the right fit for you. I’ve even been advised in the past to go “shopping” for a counsellor, but who has the time or the emotional energy to do that particularly when you’re feeling low, fragile and vulnerable.
Most of us will only talk or email our ‘potential’ therapist before meeting them for an initial consultation, the tone of the email or phone call can sometimes be enough to decide if you would like to meet them. Most ethical therapists offer an initial session for free and it’s at this point that you can really make best use of the time to see if the counsellor is right for you. I know it’s a bit like going into a shop when you’re the only person in there and you feel obliged to buy the top you don’t want, but rather think of the initial session as a “look and see” and helpful to you and the therapist. Therapy can only work if you feel comfortable with your counsellor.
Here’s a good post I found on ‘GoodTherapy.org’ that runs through the important steps of “How to Choose a Counsellor or Therapist“. Although one or two of the questions are a little more formal that I would normally go, they are certainly worth taking a mental note of, and, cushioned with these and your sense of ease with the counsellor, they could help you find the right therapist in your time of need.
The 14 steps it elaborates on are:
- What does it feel like for you to sit with the therapist?
- What’s the counsellor’s general philosophy and approach to helping?
- Can the counsellor clearly define how he or she can help you to solve whatever issue or concern has brought you to therapy?
- Does the counsellor seek regular peer consultation?
- Can your counsellor accept feedback and admit mistakes?
- Does the counsellor encourage dependence or independence?
- Has your counsellor done his or her own therapy?
- Does the therapist have experience helping others with the particular issues for which you are seeking therapy?
- Does the counsellor make guarantees or promises?
- Does your counsellor adhere to ethical principles in regard to issues such as boundaries, dual relationships, and confidentiality?
- Is the counsellor licensed?
- Does the counsellor have a graduate degree?
- Does the counsellor have postgraduate training?
- Have any complaints been filed with the board?
I believe this is a very valid check-list and a process worth considering when selecting a counsellor.
Counselling Lectures and Workshops in Geneva 2013
“Sex Is Perfectly Natural But Not Always Naturally Perfect- Recognising and Therapeutically Responding to Psychosexual Difficulties.”