The different types of counselling explained

Before you settle down on the counselling couch, there are often multiple obstacles to overcome. There’s arranging time off work, sorting childcare and, during a cost of living crisis, finding the funds for your counselling. But I think the biggest barrier of all, is managing the overwhelm you feel as you try to understand the counselling terms bandied about. What exactly has your doctor referred you for? How does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy differ from psychodynamic therapy? And what do all these three letter acronyms mean? It’s easy to make your excuses, and give up before it’s even begun. I understand your anxiety, and I’m here to put your mind at rest. In this vlog I explain the three main different types of counselling, their key features, and what to expect in the therapy room.

If you couldn’t make it through the vlog, to find out about the different types of counselling, here’s a recap.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Frequently referred to by its abbreviation CBT. CBT’s central premise is that our thoughts (a.k.a. our cognitions) impact our feelings which, in turn, effect our behaviour. So, if we can just change our thoughts for the better, we can then change our feelings, followed by our actions and possibly… our lives. Or at least that’s the theory.

CBT aims to change irrational, negative or self-sabotaging beliefs by first spotting, and then altering, negative ways of thinking. Your therapist will direct you to notice your thoughts, spot any inaccurate ones (distortions), and then check the evidence for them. You’ll also work together to try and substitute unhelpful thoughts for more beneficial and balanced ones.

Your counsellor may also ask you to complete written tasks between sessions (known, unfortunately, as homework. A stomach-sinking word for many of us who struggled in school.) which should enable you to spot triggers that cause negative thoughts to flood in.

CBT is the counselling modality normally offered by the NHS – probably because it’s low cost and time limited. Clients are usually offered only 6 to 12 sessions. Nevertheless, there is plenty of evidence to suggest it’s useful for managing anxiety disorders and phobias.

However, if you’ve tried CBT and found it doesn’t work for you – you’re far from alone. Many people find constantly capturing, recording and replacing their thoughts to be incredibly hard work. Its critics claim it’s just a sticking plaster – failing to go deep enough to support any lasting change or insight.

Psychodynamic Therapy

You’ve most likely heard of Freud, he’s the founding father of psychodynamic therapy. Freud believed that our past history has a significant impact on our current situation. A psychodynamic therapist will ask you to explore important childhood relationships. As the theory is, that the quality of relationship experienced in early life will repeat later on. For example, the client whose dad was emotionally absent during her childhood, who repeatedly picks distant partners as an adult. She feels unhappy about the lack of connection experienced in her relationships, yet has no idea why it keeps happening.

Psychodynamic counselling, is heavily centred on the unconscious and bringing what’s unknown in the subconscious, to the conscious. Here it can be explored through analysis and interpretation.

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.’ Jung

This mode of therapy isn’t normally available on the NHS, so to receive it you may need to go private. Interestingly, this is the therapy that most counsellors choose for themselves when they’re in treatment. Probably because it goes so much deeper than others. If you decide to opt for psychodynamic be aware of the therapy hangover and the financial ivestment it takes. Most people stay in treatment for at least six months, if not longer.

Person Centred Therapy

The last modality in this line up of different types of counselling, is Person centred. As the name suggests, this modality places the client in charge. The therapist will follow the clients’ lead in terms of content, pacing and direction.

Unlike psychodynamic, the counsellor will not analyse or interpret but may encourage the client to it for themselves. The client is seen as the expert on themselves, and fully capable of flourishing into their full potential (self actualisation). The only thing the counsellor has to do, is offer the core conditions.

The three main core conditions are:

  •  empathy (imagining yourself in someone’s position and thinking about their frame of reference)
  •  unconditional positive regard (warm and positive feelings regardless of behaviour either now or in the past, non -judgemental)
  •  congruence (openness and honesty).

So there you have it, an overview of the three different types of counselling. I hope you’ve found it helpful and are feeling more confident about going to counselling.

As ever if you have an questions please do get in touch, I’m always happy to answer your questions.

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