Everyone will go through periods of stress, sadness, grief, and other unwanted experiences at some point in our lives and we’re better able to navigate these experiences when we access the right support.
Every person is unique and responds to each type of counseling differently, so it is important to consider the right counseling style that fits your needs, your personality, and your comfort level. There are many great ways of practising counselling or psychotherapy and this can make it confusing to know how to choose an appropriate therapist.
Research suggests that thetherapeutic relationshipitself is more important for a good outcome than the particular theories your therapist favours. This means that if your therapist succeeds in helping you to feel safe, accepted and treated with respect and perhaps also challenges you in a positive constructive way, you are likely to be able to make good use of your sessions. It can nevertheless be useful to have some understanding of the wide range of approaches that therapists may have been trained in and will use in deciding how to work with you. You may find one approach more appealing than another or find that some approaches are more suited to your particular needs than others.
Here is a list of some of the different types of counselling with a brief description.
1. Adlerian therapy.Adlerian counsellors believe our experiences in early life, particularly within our families, affect the way we see the world and react to events. Even if we are not aware of them, the logic and goals we develop as children still govern our behaviour when we are adults. Adlerian therapy is a positive and encouraging approach that can help individuals, couples and families. It works well for anxiety and anti-social behaviours.
2. Art (or Creative) therapy.Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy which uses the creative process of making art to explore and communicate issues, feelings and emotions which may be too difficult or distressing to express in words. It can also be used to relieve stress, improve your mental wellbeing and increase self-awareness or cope. Visual art therapy can include drawing, painting, photography and modelling and is used with individuals and groups of all ages. Art therapists are psychological therapists who have arts-based experience and training in psychological interventions using drama, music or art to help clients communicate feelings and emotions. They are regulated under the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
3.Behavioural therapy.Behavioural therapies are based on the belief that your unwanted or unhealthy behaviours are a learned response to your past experiences. They focus on current problems and aim to help you learn new, more positive behaviours without having to analyse the past.Behavioural therapy often works well for compulsive and obsessive behaviours, fears, phobias and addictions.
4. Brief therapy.Brief therapy is a short-term therapy which focuses on finding solutions and making positive changes rather than focusing on the past causes of problems. Your therapist will encourage you to look at what you do well, set goals and work out how to achieve them. This type of therapy can be effective in just three or four sessions.
5. Coaching.Coaching supports individuals, teams or groups in achieving greater self-awareness, improved self-management skills and increased self-efficacy, so that you can develop your own goals and solutions. Coaching is often focused on supporting you in making changes, either to how things are at present or to your near and distant future. Sessions may be structured and directional or interactive.
6. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).CBT aims to help you change the way you think (cognitive) and what you do (behaviour). Rather than looking at past causes, it focuses on current problems and practical solutions to help you feel better now. By identifying the pattern between these three key components, the client develops an understanding of how his thoughts, emotions, and behavior all influence each other. CBT can be helpful for depression, anxiety, stress, phobias, obsessions, eating disorders and managing long term conditions.
7. Eclectic counselling.An eclectic counsellor will use a range of different theories, methods and practices according to an individual client’s needs. This is based on their belief that no singular theoretical approach works better than all others for a specific problem.
8. Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR).EMDR was developed to resolve symptoms resulting from disturbing and traumatic life experiences. It is particularly used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. EMDR is thought to imitate the psychological state that we enter when in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Studies show that when in REM sleep we are able to make new associations between things very rapidly. EMDR is designed to tap into this high-speed processing mode that we all have, helping the brain to process the unresolved memories and make them less distressing.
9. Family Therapy.This type of therapy looks at a family system, and the relationships between people, rather than the individuals. It allows family members to express and explore difficult thoughts and emotions safely, helping them understand each other’s experiences and views, appreciate each other’s needs and build on their strengths. It can help with many issues that affect the family unit, helping people make useful changes in their relationships and their lives. It’s important to ensure that the counselor you work with is tolerant of your family’s beliefs and traditions. At the same time, being open to change is always necessary at some points in any kind of therapy.
10.Gestalt Therapy.Gestalt therapy places a lot of emphasis on helping the client understand their non-verbal and body language, here-and-now behaviour and potential for positive change. The client will be encouraged, and sometimes challenged, to accept responsibility for his or her actions, decisions and feelings. It is likely to be suited to people who are willing to try to do this. Modern Gestalt therapy is not, however, necessarily a ‘confrontational’ approach.
11. Group Therapy.In group therapy, members of a group interact with each other under the guidance of a therapist. The group may be made up of people who are grieving, have anxiety or panic attacks, deal with depression, have bipolar disorder or a personality disorder, or members of a family. The counselor typically goes around to each member of the group, asking them to introduce themselves or talk about their week. This initial exchange usually leads to deeper issues that can then be explored. Other members of the group are also allowed to ask the person questions or challenge them. However, members of the group are expected to respect each other. Groups may be educational, supportive, or utilize CBT, DBT, or any other number of methods.
12.Hypnotherapy.Hypnotherapy uses the technique of hypnosis to induce a deep state of relaxation during which the unconscious mind is highly receptive to new ideas. Accessing this part of the mind through hypnosis can help to change behaviour, attitudes and emotions, as well as manage pain, anxiety, stress-related illnesses and bad habits, including promoting personal development.
13. Interpersonal Therapy.Interpersonal therapy is a form of therapy that helps an individual understand the dynamics of communication and interpersonal relationships. Interpersonal therapy targets communication and interpersonal behavior to help the patient understand how he contributes to the struggles and emotional issues he faces. The premise of interpersonal therapy is if you can improve interpersonal behavior and communication, you will receive more support and acceptance from others and from yourself, which will help improve overall mood and reduce emotional issues.
14. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).NLP combines cognitive behavioural and humanistic therapies with hypnotherapy. NLP techniques are often used to bring about change and improve our personal growth, development and performance .It works on the theory that life experiences, from birth onwards, programme the way you see the world. Practitioners help you to discover how you have learnt to think or feel so that you can take control of your actions. They will also look at your successes, so you can use these to develop further successful skills and behaviours. NLP is generally used as an additional way of working with other types of therapy rather than on its own.
15. Play therapy.Primarily used with children, this uses play as a communication tool to help them express their feelings and deal with emotional problems. It can be used to diagnose the reasons for difficult behaviour, to allow children to work through their anxieties or as a relearning and desensitisation therapy.
16.Psychoanalysis.Psychoanalysis originated with the work of Sigmund Freud, from which many different theories and ways of working have developed. It deals with the exploration of the unconscious mind and requires a long specialist training. The analyst can make you aware of unconscious patterns so you can change them. Your relationship with the analyst is important as it can highlight your patterns of behaviour within relationships generally.
17. Psychodynamic Counselling.Psychodynamic therapy focuses on self-awareness of the patient’s actions and behaviors. Psychodynamic therapy is like CBT in that it works to understand how beliefs, thoughts, behavior, and emotions are interconnected. However, it focuses on the unconscious beliefs and emotions that tend to trigger the negative thoughts, emotions, and behavior, rather than conscious, automatic thoughts that occur in initial reaction to situations.
18. Relationship counselling.Relationship therapy encourages the parties in a relationship to recognise repeating patterns of distress and to understand and manage troublesome differences that they are experiencing. The relationship involved may be between members of a family, a couple, or even work colleagues.
For more information about counselling and therapy, the following resources may be helpful.
- Canadian Professional Counsellors Association. https://www.cpca-rpc.ca
- Canadian Mental Health Association. www.cmha.ca
- Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association. https://www.ccpa-accp.ca
- The Federation of Associations for Counselling Therapists in B C. https://www.factbc.org
- Counselling Psychology. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/counseling.aspx
- Psychology Help Centre. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/
- Who needs counselling? PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/lib/who-needs-counseling-10-therapy-myths-dispelled/