When it comes to counselling there are a number of different approaches that therapists use. In terms of choosing a therapist that is right for you it’s important to have an understanding of the most common approaches to ensure that you get the right therapist and help you need to overcome any issues you may have. I’ve provided an overview of the most common approaches below:
Person Centred or Humanistic – This approach assumes that as human’s, we are self actualising which means that we are always looking to improve ourselves to ultimately be all that we can be. It also assumes that when we are free of defenses, we are constructive, genuine and trustworthy, indicating that our defences can cause many unwanted behaviours and ways of being.
This kind of therapist will primarily seek to create the right kind of environment so that you can begin to realise and achieve your potential. It’s non-directive as all of the answers will come from you, therefore, if you’re not looking for any guidance, but are looking to offload and find you own way, then this might be good for you.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – This is based on the assumption that feelings and behaviour come mainly from thought (cognitions) and is a more directive approach than the Person-Centred way. By understanding and changing our thinking, we can begin to alter how we feel and our behaviour.
This kind of therapy looks to understand how we interpret our world and events and identify distorted thinking and to consequently make changes. This approach assumes that behaviour is learnt and the beliefs we have about ourselves and the world (which can often be mistaken or limiting) can pay a significant part to how we think, feel and behave. CBT tends to be a shorter term therapy than Psycho-Dynamic and Person-Centred.
Psycho-Dynamic – Freud was the founder of this approach and it believes that human’s are motivated by inborn forces that drive our mental and physical behaviours where psychological malfunctioning comes from an imbalance between pleasure and displeasure.
This type of therapy is concerned with past experience to identify the inner you and how this has created your current self. ‘The child is the father of the man’ – Freud.
Integrative – This approach integrates the 3 main schools of psychology (listed above) in a structured manner to fit the client. This approach assumes that People are capable of change, Behaviour is purposeful, the therapeutic process has a beginning, middle and end (to explore, understand and act), the individual is the expert on themselves, People want to realise their potential (links to the self actualising tendency) and each individual is unique. Working integratively means that the therapist can utilise a range of therapeutic tools and skills to match your needs and requirements, rather than being restricted to just one way of working, meaning your therapy is often tailored to you.
Solution Focused – This approach is exactly as it sounds. It is concerned with looking at what is going right in your life, building on your strengths and helping you move forward. This way of working feels that focusing on the problem will allow you to re-experience it and often dramatises it, and although it acknowledges the past, it is more about looking at the here and now and seeing what needs to happen for the first steps to be taken. As a directive approach, it has links with CBT and is often termed as a brief therapy.