Some people may be embarrassed to attend therapy, believing they have failed in some way. However, this is not the case. Many people choose professional counselling and find they are able to make a huge success of their life. Just talking to someone confidentially who is not a friend or family member can make all the difference. Counselling provides a regular time for those in distress to explore their feelings and talk about their problems. A counsellor should help you develop better ways of coping, allowing you to live the life you deserve.
Choosing the right counsellor for your individual needs is essential, and consideration must be given to their training, qualifications and experience. Counsellor accreditation is often important if you are wary about which counsellor to choose:
Counselling Approaches 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 looking at the ‘here and now’. This is a generalisation though and counselling usually overlaps some of these techniques. Some counsellors or psychotherapists practise a form of ‘integrative’ counselling, 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.
Counselling or Psychotherapy? Though most people will be aware of the term ‘counselling’, you may have come across the term ‘psychotherapy’ and differentiating between these terms is useful when understanding which therapy will be best suited to you. Both psychotherapy and counselling involve talking to someone who is trained to listen and there is no definitive distinction between counselling and psychotherapy. However, in general, counselling is a talking therapy which allows individuals to deal with specific life issues, whereas psychotherapy is used to deal with ‘deeper’ issues, most commonly with those whose past experiences are still causing them distress. It may be helpful to think of counselling and psychotherapy as being at either ends of a scale. At one end would be brief counselling to deal with a specific problem, at the other end would be intense psychotherapy to deal with deep rooted problems.
However the main factor that usually determines how successful the therapy is does not lie with the technique or approach used, but with the actual counsellor. Therefore this site provides you with an insight into each individual counsellor, their personality and traits, before you attend that first face-to-face meeting with them. How you connect with the counsellor you choose is likely to determine how successful the treatment is. It is also helpful to have a little knowledge on the different types of counselling that may be used when deciding upon a counsellor. There are many types of counselling, some involve looking at past relationships and experiences to make sense of them, and others involve looking at the ‘here and now’. Behavioural Therapies
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a common approach used by counsellors and other professional psychologists to help ease emotional distress by recognising and treating the underlying psychological problems. This type of therapy has proven to be an effective method of treatment for a variety of problems, including anxiety disorders, depression disorders, stress, anger and coping with loss. It is possible for the therapy to take place on a one-to-one basis, with family members or even as a group depending on the issue and how the individual feels most comfortable.
Behavioural and Cognitive therapies mainly concentrate on the theory of here and now, however, they do not dismiss the individuals past altogether and the professional and client must work together to address the current issues. It is imperative that the relationship formed between the counsellor and the sufferer is positive in order to develop a shared outlook of the issues that need to be confronted. If this occurs the pair can set goals and find ways of achieving these goals together. The counsellor will often set the client home projects to complete in order to put their new skills into practice. • Behavioural Therapy
This approach addresses the unusual thoughts, feelings and behaviour directly by issuing the sufferer with rewards and by confronting the factors that influence these recurrent thoughts. This therapy does not ignore the past like some other approaches, but does concentrate on the present events which are in control of the sufferers behaviour. • Cognitive Therapy
This type of therapy attempts to recognise unusual thoughts or events that could potentially result in unwanted feelings and negative behaviour. The main objective is to amend these initial thoughts and replace them with a different perspective in order to prevent the distressing consequences from occurring.
Many professionals combine the two approaches, which can have effective results in changing a persons distorted thoughts and feelings.
The main objective of this therapy is to identify and alter an individual’s thought process in order to change both behaviour and emotional development. The sessions consist of a number of activities; a few of the techniques are listed below.
• Coping skills • Assessments • Relaxation • Challenging certain thoughts • Thought stopping • Homework projects • Training in communication Psychoanalytical and Psychodynamic Therapies Psychoanalytical and psychodynamic approaches are based on theories of mental functioning that acknowledge how individuals have perceptions, thoughts and desires they are not consciously aware of. Freud is widely regarded as being the founder of modern psychology, developing the therapy known as psychoanalysis. Patients would lie on a couch and talk about what came into their mind. Deeply buried memories and experiences were often expressed and the opportunity to share these thoughts and feelings seemed to help patients. This therapy is based on the idea that a great deal of an individual’s behaviour and thoughts are not within their conscious control. By talking freely about thoughts entering their minds, the patient reveals unconscious needs and memories that will allow them to gain control of their life.
Psychoanalysis is intensive and usually patients attend four or five sessions a week for several years. Psychoanalytic therapy is based upon psychoanalysis but is less intensive, patients only attending between one and three sessions a week. Psychodynamic counselling is based on the same theories, however it may focus on more immediate problems, be more practically based and shorter term than psychoanalytic therapy.
Psychoanalytical therapies are often beneficial for individuals who want to understand more about themselves. They are particularly helpful for those who feel their difficulties have affected them for a long period of time and need relieving of mental and emotional distress. Together, the therapist and the client try to understand the inner life of the client in a deep exploration. Uncovering an individuals unconscious needs and thoughts may help them to understand how past experiences have affected them, and how they can work through these to live a more fulfilling life.
Psychodynamic is the word that links psychotherapy and counselling with psychoanalysis. Psychodynamic counselling is based on empathy, acceptance and understanding. The understanding the counsellor gains from the therapy can enhance the life of the counsellor as well as the client. The process of change develops when the client recognises the power of the unconscious and learns how to control their actions and responses. Humanistic Therapies
Humanistic Counselling became known over 50 years ago and has become an extremely effective approach to counselling. Although behavioural therapy and psychoanalytic methods were available, a Humanistic approach offered sufferers another alternative. This type of counselling focuses on recognising human capabilities in areas such as creativity, personal growth and choice. This method is perceived more as an artistic approach rather than scientific and is therefore not as well known as the other two types.
When an individual is choosing a counsellor, it is extremely important that the client is aware of the approach the counsellor uses before arranging an appointment. This is because each method is different and depends on the person’s needs as to which approach should be taken. The main objectives of humanistic psychology are to find out how individuals perceive themselves here and now and to recognise growth, self-direction and responsibilities. This method is optimistic and attempts to help individuals recognise their strengths by offering a non-judgemental, understanding experience. • Person-Centred Counselling
This type of counselling allows the client to guide themselves through the episode rather than being led by the professional. This theory suggests that sessions should not be directive and the counsellor should be a source of understanding and encouragement rather than the problem solver. The Person-Centred approach allows clients to move at their own pace and to direct their own development. This means they are aware that the counsellor believes in their capability to manage problems, which encourages them to believe in their strengths, values and worth.
An individual’s self-concept is an important issue in this type of counselling; if someone has been brought up around negative experiences or interactions, it is likely that the person’s self-concept will be damaged. With this method, it is not the counsellor’s task to direct or diagnose the individual; their role is to listen, understand and accept in a non-judgemental manner, thus allowing the clients to help themselves. This is thought to be extremely beneficial in repairing a person’s self-concept.
The relationship created between the therapist and client is extremely important and the counsellor must adhere to specific healing characteristics in order for the outcome to be successful. The counsellor must empathise with the individual, offering honesty and no matter how the client acts, the same positive, kind feelings must be portrayed at all times. The experience offered concentrates on the here and now and the I am concepts, which overlook the individual’s past and reassures them they are responsible for the way they feel and their actions. • Gestalt Counselling
Unlike Person-Centred Counselling, this method is directive and concentrates on the client’s thought process and feelings. The main objective of this approach is for the individual’s to become more aware of themselves taking into account their mind, body and spirit. The purpose of this is to improve the person’s personal experiences and therefore creating a better quality of life.
A gestalt professional constantly promotes the clients’s awareness of themselves and uses experiments that are often invented by the counsellor and client. These experiments can be anything from creating patterns with objects and writing to role-playing. Promoting awareness is the main objective of Gestalt Counselling but other areas such as improving the ability to support ones emotional feelings are also important. • Transactional Analysis Counselling
Transactional Analysis is a theory that involves an individual’s growth and development. It is also a theory related to communication and child development explaining the connections to our past and how this influences decisions we make. The TA theory was developed by Eric Berne who was a psychiatrist and he recognised three key ego-states that are present in everyone; Parent, Adult and Child.
This method of counselling encourages individuals to analyse previous decisions they have made and understand the direction and patterns of their life for themselves. It also helps clients to trust their decisions and think/act as an individual improving the way they feel about themselves. TA is a humanistic approach and like Person-Centred Counselling focuses on the here and now concept.