Types of Counseling Available

In the early 20thcentury, there was only one sort of counseling available. That was Psychoanalysis, as pioneered by Sigmund Freud, and then spread and popularized by an ever-widening number of counselors. After Freud's initial successes, psychologists began developing their own psychological theories and treatment methodologies.

Now every town and city has a large number of counselors who offer treatments across a wide range of theories and methods. To help you sort through what seems like a confusing group of seemingly contradictory solutions to personal problems, we wrote this page in hopes of clarifying the counseling world.

Types of Counselors

There is a wide range of counselors available to treat all sorts of clients. Their counseling might be less focused on mental health and more on, say, learning to become a better student, parent, or worker. There are child counselors who specialize in youngsters, just as there are counselors who focus on the elderly or those suffering from substance abuse issues.

These counselors help children and parents address various mental health issues and how they manifest in childhood. Child counselors might employ methods that are unheard of with adult clients. For instance, a child counselor might integrate art or music therapy into regular sessions. They might also use dolls to help children demonstrate interpersonal experiences.

Kids have a lot on their plate. They are subject to many stressors with which they have no way of dealing. When kids start acting out in school, their teachers often have a resource person who can give the kids the one-on-one attention they need. Further, a school counselor can help the entire school recover when they experience a tragedy.

Families often face troubles that are difficult to address and solve without external help. Couples also find that, as they grow, certain rifts arise in their relationship. A Marriage and Family Counselor can meet with members of the family group on a one-on-one basis or as a whole to help find solutions for their troubles.

These counselors are often general practice psychotherapists who help every-day adults work through the troubles that plague them. They can help people get to the root of their depression, poor habits, anxiety, or distinct traumas. Clients seek mental health counselors to overcome childhood trauma, work and life stress, and a myriad of modern maladies.

Rehabilitation counselors are professionals who help people who suffer from a wide range of difficulties to learn to live on their own. For example, they might work with developmentally disabled persons and help them overcome the logistical and emotional hurdles that impede their daily activities. They also work with clients who struggle with a wide range of emotional or physical wounds.

There are specific problems that accompany many substance abuse issues. Substance abuse counselors have a deep understanding of the addiction dynamic and the many ways to treat it. They can help a recovering addict or alcoholic recover from their seemingly intransigent state of mind and body.

Counseling Approaches

Behavioral Approach

Behavioral therapy could be characterized as an outside-in approach. That is, most therapeutic approaches focus on a person's inner motivations, desires, and neuroses as a means of seeking wholeness and happiness. These other approaches seek to heal inner wounds to change outer behaviors and external outcomes. For example, if they are continually procrastinating their tasks, a counselor might look to deeper problems stemming from an autocratic father who instilled deep anxiety around performance.

Behavioral therapy, on the other hand, teaches clients to change their behaviors as a way to find inner happiness. Thus, the procrastinating patient might try new ways to reward herself for completing tasks in a timely fashion.

B.F. Skinner pioneered this approach, and his followers were so enamored of it that they would eschew any reference to the unconscious mind. Rather, they thought that human problems could be resolved by supplying the proper reinforcements for positive or desirable behaviors. Therapists often ask clients to monitor their behaviors and take detailed notes on their activities. They then work together to discover new activities that provide the sorts of rewards most needed by the client. When a client needs to learn new skills, they might role-play these new things with the therapist.

Humanistic Approach

This approach is often attributed to the work of Carl Rogers, a post-Freudian psychotherapist who founded his psychological thinking on the idea that human beings are fundamentally good. His emphasis on a person's positive traits is counter to many other approaches which see the human personality as a conglomeration of neuroses, sexual deviance, and childhood trauma. This approach can thus be helpful if a client is struggling with low self-esteem since it seeks to emphasize positive attributes rather than analyze them as a system of problems.

Humanistic sessions seek to uncover a client's positive inner strengths as well as their outer abilities and positive behaviors. Counselors have used the humanistic approach to treat a wide range of disorders, including depression, anxiety, addiction, schizophrenia, and all sorts of relationship difficulties.

Humanistic sessions also posit the counselor as an equal to the client. Their status is one of facilitator to the client rather than a dominating psychological authority. They seek to provide an atmosphere of acceptance and caring in an attempt to allow the client to trust them and the psychological process.

Psychoanalytic Approach

Sigmund Freud pioneered psychoanalysis in the early 20th century. His theory was that humans are motivated and often hindered by their unconscious minds. His theory of development played a huge role in the idea that adults are governed by influences experienced during childhood.

In a psychoanalytic session, patients might be asked to respond to a series of prompts with the first word that comes to mind. This word-association method is thought to help unlock the unconscious mind by easing the restrictions we place on thought when we are trying to portray a certain persona. This approach also becomes highly individualized since every client is sure to have special associations with certain words and thus idiosyncratic responses to the counselor's prompts.

This approach thus requires a great deal of trust and intimacy in the counselor-client relationship. Clients must be able to let their guard down enough so that they can explore their inner lives on a very deep level. The insights clients gain through this approach have unlocked great personal potential and have healed deep personal wounds and relationships.

Cognitive Approach

Cognitive therapy deals with the ways that we process and cope with information, thoughts, and feelings. This therapeutic approach focuses on a client's thinking as a way to address other problems. Clients learn to change the thoughts which might be excessively self-deprecating, or which tend to exaggerate problems. Rather than merely replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, clients learn to see problems through a realistic lens.

This sort of approach has proven effective for a wide range of problems. Since it relies on specific cognitive tools, if a client begins to backslide into their old patterns of thought and feeling, they can return to the methods learned from their counselor. Once a patient starts framing issues in a more rational framework, they are likely to find them far more manageable.

One very attractive feature of cognitive therapy is that studies have shown that it is as effective against depression as anti-depressant medications. Since cognitive therapy has neither side effects nor the need for a prescription, this approach might be preferred for many who find themselves overwhelmed and depressed.

Counseling for Who?

Group counseling can be a great benefit for certain people. Group therapists are more often in the role of moderator and facilitator. They help to guide the overall discussion and can help re-direct the session if it becomes sidetracked. The counselor also assembles each group to meet certain goals or to address specific issues.

For instance, groups can focus on issues such as eating disorders, addiction, marital problems, divorce recovery, or grief for loved ones. There are then sub-specialties such as parents who have lost a child, people whose former spouses left them for a same-sex partner, or gambling addicts with a cross-addiction to cocaine. When the group members all share the same general difficulties, the support and feedback can be a great benefit to everyone.

Individual psychological counseling is perhaps the most common form of therapy. In individual sessions, clients are often more willing to let down their inner boundaries and express their true feelings. Some clients will see counselors every week for extended periods of time, some lasting multiple years.

One-on-One counseling is often a haven for patients who need a safe sanctum in which to express the feelings that plague them the most. It is also a means for people to receive feedback on their weekly activities. For patients who are going through a major transformation, such as recovering alcoholics, individual therapy can be a way to process what 12-step work or other addiction assistance has uncovered. The individual sessions can help clients process events and feelings in a focused fashion that is not possible in other settings.

Counseling/Therapy Methods

Behavioral Therapy : This therapy is used to change a client's behavior as a way to discover a sense of wholeness and happiness. Behavioral therapy is a rather pragmatic approach that asks clients to assess their behaviors and the rewards they receive from those behaviors. This approach might propose that a patient delay a certain reward until after they have amended or avoided certain negative behaviors.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy : This therapeutic approach can be used to treat a wide range of problems. It can also be used to help clients cope with specific parts of their daily lives. For instance, if they wish to quit smoking, they can utilize cognitive tools to re-frame smoking as a negative behavior and then behavioral tools to reward not smoking. The essential focus of this approach is a person's thoughts and actions in the present moment rather than seeking to unearth traumas from a deep, murky past.

Cognitive Analytical Therapy : This therapeutic approach integrates elements of psychoanalysis and cognitive therapy. In this modality, counselors and clients seek to redefine the problems that plague the client to mute their impact. This approach is more commonly found in the United Kingdom and is a part of the National Health Services mental health approach. It is a time-limited therapy that lasts somewhere between four and 24 weeks, depending on the case at hand.

Dialectic Behavioral Therapy : This method is another pragmatic approach that provides clients with specific tools they can implement. For instance, DBT practitioners may instruct their clients in mindfulness and mindful meditation. Thus, clients might implement this tool in stressful or triggering situations as a means of maintaining a healthy perspective. They are able to modify their behavior to avoid exacerbating, if not causing, conflicts with others. They might also build tolerance to stress and anxiety so that they are not as reactive and easily upset.

Family Therapy : When families face great stress, they might seek out therapy. Family therapy will often ask that the individual members meet with the counselor alone before a group meeting. Once in the group setting, the counselor can help to guide the session while knowing each member's internal motivations and personality make-up. This approach can help families achieve a new level of communication and trust that helps them avoid deep dysfunction or overcome shared grief.

Gestalt Therapy : This therapeutic approach asks the client to focus on the present moment. Other modalities seek to delve into a person's past, but gestalt therapy is concerned with the present moments and the thoughts and feelings that stand in the way of a person's happiness. The thinking is that once a person is able to sort through negative cognitive or emotional traps, then they can experience life, and themselves, on more realistic terms. One key term in gestalt therapy is self-awareness.

Hypnotherapy : Hypnosis is often considered a parlor trick or an entertainment for corporate gatherings. However, this therapeutic method has shown efficacy in helping clients halt harmful behaviors such as smoking or other substance abuse. Hypnotherapists learn methods for putting clients into a trance state that allows deeper access to the subconscious mind. Clients can thus revisit old traumas so as to achieve a deeper understanding and lasting healing.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming : This therapeutic method, often abbreviated at NLP, seeks to learn the language of a client's mind. That is, when the client understands how to communicate with their unconscious mind, they will be able to attain the goals they set with ease. Another part of the process involves redefining how the client perceives the world so that they can interact with it in an effective, functional manner.

Person-Centered Counseling : This therapeutic modality puts the client first. The counselor is not the arbiter of absolute truth and is no more an authority than the therapeutic subject. Some of the key parts of this method include unconditional positive regard, empathetic understanding, and congruence, which indicates a non-authoritative approach on the part of the therapist. This type of counseling is also called a Rogerian or Humanistic approach.

Psychoanalysis : This is the methodology pioneered by Sigmund Freud. While it has been somewhat obscured in the therapeutic landscape by other, researched-based approaches, this method is still highly revered and preferred by counselors and patients alike. The core of this approach posits that the unconscious mind is a guiding motivating force in a person's life. Through psychotherapy, the client learns to understand and heal unconscious traumas or forces.

Psycho-Dynamic Counseling : This is a close cousin to psychoanalysis in that it focuses on the unconscious mind. It is used to treat depression, anxiety, and a wide range of psychological disorders. Studies have borne out efficacy for substance abuse disorders, social anxiety, and eating disorders. Since practitioners prescribe sessions that are high in number and frequency, psycho-dynamic therapy can be successful in an abbreviated time frame, unlike psychoanalysis.

Relationship Counseling : Relationship counseling is a choice that married and other couples use to help heal their flawed relationships. Often, each member of the couple meets with the counselor for one or more sessions so that the therapist can understand them as individuals. Then the couple will meet together with the counselor to sort through their difficulties. Often the goals include things like communication improvements, conflict resolution, or correcting negative behavior patterns.

Solution-Focused Therapy : While every counseling session is focused on achieving long-term solutions to a client's problems, this method has a unique approach. The idea is not to treat clinical matters in a clinical fashion. Rather, counselors seek to help clients achieve certain goals and to overcome psychological blockages that might be holding them back from achieving a happy life. Ultimately, the client will emerge from solution-focused therapy with a plan for their future that enables them to overcome a wide range of obstacles.

Integrative Therapy : As the name might suggest, integrative therapy seeks to treat the client from a range of angles. Counselors who practice this method are effectively practicing a range of psychological therapies. They might combine psychoanalysis with cognitive therapy to understand the roots of a problem. Then, they might discover that the patient needs to apply behavioral methods to overcome a particularly malignant habit. Counselors who use this method see that there is no one correct way to treat clients and that a well-stocked toolkit can address a range of problems.

Multi-modal Therapy : This therapeutic method postulates seven modalities of a person's psychological make-up. It addresses seven such modalities including behavior, emotion, thought, sensory input, and interpersonal relationships. To treat these modes, MMT draws from a range of therapeutic disciplines for its methodology. However, it relies on social and cognitive learning as its theoretical basis. Practitioners believe that this therapeutic method(s) results in a lower rate of relapse.