There are several types of counselling that follow similar lines to the various different types of psychotherapy, each model has its own theory of human development and its own way of working. Some practitioners work in an ‘eclectic' way, which means that they draw on elements of
several different models when working with clients. Others practice a form of ‘integrative counselling', which draws on and blends two or more specific types.
From the client's point of view, perhaps the most obvious difference between the types of counselling is whether the counsellor is directive (suggesting courses of action and perhaps giving ‘homework' exercises) or non-directive (with the client taking the lead in what's discussed). While it's not possible to include all the various types available, the most popular are discussed below.
They are all non-directive, except cognitive behavioral counselling.
Psycho dynamic counselling:
This is based on the idea that past experiences have a bearing on experiences and feelings in the present, and that important relationships, perhaps from early childhood, may be replayed with other people later in life. It translates the principles and insights of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy into once-a-week counselling.
The counsellor usually aims to be as neutral a figure as possible, giving little information about
him or herself, making it more likely that important relationships (past or present) will be reflected in the relationship between the client and the counsellor. This relationship is therefore an important source of insight for both parties, and helps the client to ‘work through' their difficulties.
Developing a trusting and reliable relationship with the counsellor is essential for this work.
Client-centred or person-centred counselling:
This is based on the principle that the counsellor provides three ‘core conditions' (or essential attributes) that are, in themselves, therapeutic. These are:
Again, the counsellor uses the relationship with the client as a means of healing and change.
This is an integrative and holistic approach that utilises creative imagination. It assumes a spiritual dimension to life and human nature. It also presupposes the interconnectedness of all beings with a higher spiritual power, and specifically addresses the bridge between the two.
Transpersonal counselling emphasises personal empowerment. It takes account of the client's past experiences, but also looks to the future and what is likely to unfold for them, the challenges they may face and the qualities that need to emerge in them to meet those challenges. Its basic belief is that whatever the hardships of human experience, the core essence, or soul, remains undamaged.
Transactional analysis counselling:
Transactional Analysis counselling emphasises people's personal responsibility for their feelings, thoughts and behaviour. It believes people can change, if they actively decide to replace their usual patterns of behaviour with new ones. The counsellor offers:
Planning the goals of the counselling is part of the process. The focus is on uncovering the ‘life
scripts' (life plans) that reflect the messages the client was given as a child. The counselling
teaches the client to identify in which of the following modes he or she is operating, at any given time:
This helps people to clarify, think about and understand life, so that they can live it well. It encourages them to focus on the basic assumptions they make about it, and about themselves, so they can come to terms with life as it is. It allows them to make sense of their existence.
The counselling focuses the client on how much they already take charge of their life, and not on what they are doing wrong. At the same time, it takes note of any real limitations, so that they can make choices based on a true view of the options available.
Personal construct counselling:
This is based on the idea that nobody can know absolute truth. Instead, each person constructs their idea of the truth from their own experiences, and this affects the way they see the world.
The problem is that people can get stuck with a view of things that prevents them from living life to the full, because they can't find any alternative ways of seeing things. Personal Construct counselling helps people to look at different ways of behaving that may be useful in changing the way they see the world.
This is a more directive type of counselling, focusing on gestalten (patterns of thought, feeling and activity). It encourages people to have an active awareness of their present situation, and also incorporates communication that goes beyond words. A key part of gestalt counselling is the
dramatisation, or acting out, of important conflicts in a person's life. This could involve using two or more chairs, for instance, so that they can physically take up different positions to represent different aspects of themselves.
Rational-emotive behavioural counselling:
This takes the view that people have two main goals in life: to stay alive and to be happy. It aims to remove the obstacles that people place in their own way, and also to achieve a healthy balance between short-term and long-term goals.
This is another directive model, concerned with the way people's beliefs about themselves shape
how they interpret experiences. The objective is to change self-defeating or irrational beliefs and behaviours by altering negative ways of thinking.
Clients learn to monitor their emotional upsets and what triggers them, to identify self-defeating thoughts, to see the connections between their beliefs, feelings and behaviour, to look at the evidence for and against these thoughts and beliefs, and to think in a way that is more realistic and less negative.
The counsellor usually gives the client tasks or homework to do between sessions. This could mean recording thoughts and feelings, or doing something that tests out a basic assumption about themselves. This might mean, for instance, going to the shops when their fear is that they may panic.
Brief Solution Focused Therapy:
A structured therapy, usually carried out over one to five sessions. Unlike most other talking therapies, therapist and client usually spend little time on details and causes of the problem. The client is helped to define their own goals and therapy focuses on finding the best way towards the goals in the briefest time possible. It helps the client to recognise their own strengths, resources and abilities. To focus on what is getting better and to build on this.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
A semi-structured therapy which examines how problems in relationships contribute to emotional difficulties such as depression and vice versa. IPT primarily focuses on working and improving relationships with the aim of bringing about change, leading to improvements in mood, or other
troubling symptoms. IPT is usually offered over the course of up to 16 sessions.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT):
DBT was developed from CBT and adapted to suit the specific needs of people with Borderline Personality Disorder. Psychosynthesis
A holistic approach to self-realisation and the development of potential. Includes creative approaches such as artwork, metaphor and imagery, visualization, therapeutic writing etc.
Combines ideas from more than one theoretical approach (usually including person centred and psychodynamic, and others), drawing on elements of each as appropriate for the client / issues.