A-Z of types of therapy

  • A
    • Adlerian Therapy

      Adlerian Therapy, originated by Alfred Adler, focuses on creating a therapeutic relationship that is co-operative, encouraging and practical.

      Adlerian counsellors help clients look at their lifestyle and personal values to help them understand and question their usual patterns of behaviour and goals. It involves a learning process that helps the client move towards integration in society.

  • B
    • Behavioural Therapy

      This therapy is based on the belief that behaviour is learnt in response to past experience, and can be un-learnt or reconditioned through association, without analysing the past to find the reason for the behaviour.

      It often works well for compulsive and obsessive behaviours, fears, phobias and addictions.

  • C
    • Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT)

      Cognitive Analytic Therapy is a collaborative programme used to look at the way a person thinks, feels and acts, and the events and relationships that underlie these experiences (often from childhood or earlier in life).

      As its name suggests, it brings together ideas and understanding from different therapies into one user-friendly and effective therapy. It is a time-limited therapy – between 4 and 24 weeks, but typically 16 weeks.

      At its heart is an empathic relationship between the client and therapist within the therapeutic boundaries, the purpose of which is to help the client make sense of their situation and to find ways of making changes

    • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

      This type of therapy combines cognitive and behavioural techniques. Clients are taught ways to change thoughts and expectations, with the use of relaxation techniques.

      CBT has been effective for stress-related ailments, phobias, obsessions, eating disorders, and major depression (sometimes when combined with drug treatment).

    • Cognitive Therapy

      This type of therapy uses the power of the mind to influence behaviour. It is based on the theory that previous experiences can damage self image, which can affect attitude, emotions and an ability to deal with certain situations.

      It works by helping the client to identify, question and change poor mental images of themselves, thus steering away from negative responses and behaviour.

      Cognitive therapy can help people to view things more optimistically.

  • D
    • Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)

      DBT was developed from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). With the main aim of CBT being to change behaviour, DBT is also based on the acceptance of the client’s behaviour, which can help some client’s with very intense emotions to not feel rejected by the strong focus on change.

      DBT aims to balance acceptance with change. With certain techniques used, DBT therapists can point out to clients that their behaviour, even though may not be in their best interest in the long term, makes sense, as it is often the only way they have learned to deal with such intense emotions; and appears to lead to positive consequences in the short term.

      In addition to this however, the therapist can also challenge the client to make change in their life and to learn other ways of dealing with their distress.

  • E
    • Eclectic Counselling

      An eclectic counsellor will select from a number of different approaches that are appropriate to the client’s needs.

    • Existential Therapy

      Existential psychotherapy is an approach that explores inner conflict that a client may experience when confronted with some ultimate concerns in life.

      These include the inevitability of death, freedom and its responsibilities, existential isolation, and meaninglessness. These four concerns form the body of existential psychotherapy and compose the framework in which a therapist interprets a client’s problem in order to develop a method of treatment.

      Existential therapy has much in common with psychodynamic, humanistic, experiential, and relational approaches to psychotherapy.

    • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

      This form of psychotherapy was developed to resolve symptoms resulting from disturbing and unresolved life experiences.

      EMDR is thought to imitate the psychological state that we enter when in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Studies show that when in REM sleep we are able to make new associations between things very rapidly. EMDR is designed to tap into this high-speed processing mode that we all have, but usually do not have access to.

  • F
    • Family Therapy

      This type of therapy is used to treat a family system rather than individual members of the family. As a form of systemic therapy it requires specifically trained counsellors.

  • G
    • Gestalt Therapy

      The name of this therapy is derived from the German word for ‘organised whole’. Developed by Fritz Perls, Gestalt therapy focuses on the whole of the client’s experience, including feelings, thoughts and actions.

      The client gains self-awareness by analysing behaviour and body language and talking about their feelings. This approach often includes acting out scenarios and dream recall.

  • H
    • Humanistic Therapy

      Coming from the ‘personal growth movement’ this approach encourages people to think about their feelings and take responsibility for their thoughts and actions.

      The emphasis is on self-development and achieving one’s potential. A ‘client-centred’ or ‘non-directive’ approach is often used and the therapy can be described as ‘holistic’ or looking at the person as a whole. The client’s creative instincts may be used to explore and resolve personal issues.

  • I
    • Integrative Therapy

      In this type of therapy several distinct models of counselling and psychotherapy are used together.

  • M
    • Mindfulness

      Mindfulness is a specific way of intentionally paying attention to one’s thoughts. It is based on the idea that one negative thought can lead to a chain reaction of negative thoughts.

      This approach encourages people to be aware of each thought, enabling the first negative thought to be ‘caught’ so that it is seen as just a ‘thought’ and not a fact. This breaks the chain reaction of negative thoughts giving a mental ‘space’ in which the person can re-centre themselves in the present.

      Mindfulness-based therapists can work with individuals and groups and will usually integrate mindfulness in with another type of therapy, in which they are already trained.

  • N
    • Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

      NLP is not generally seen as model of therapy that is used on its own, but usually as an additional way of working with other types of therapy.

      NLP sees a world of excellence where people can be helped to create their own choice and flexibility. Based on a number of operating principles, NLP theory states that ‘we either already have all the resources we need or we can create them’ and ‘modelling successful performance leads to excellence; if one person can do it, it is possible to model it and teach it to others’.

      NLP is based on finding out how someone does something well and then repeating the process with a goal of ‘excellence for all’.

  • P
    • Person/Client-Centred Therapy

      Devised by Carl Rogers, this therapy is based on the idea that a client enters into a relationship with a counsellor where the client is allowed to freely express any emotions and feelings.

      This enables the client to come to terms with the negative feelings that may have caused emotional problems, and develop personal skills. The objective is for the client to become able to see themselves as a person with power and freedom to change.

    • Primal Therapy

      This therapy is based on the theory that distress which has occurred at birth or during infancy can resurface as neuroses. The therapy takes the client back to the ‘primal scene’ where trauma can be re-experienced as an emotional cleansing.

      When this approach is used by a therapist it is usually in addition to their main type of therapy.

    • Psychoanalysis

      This is based on the work of Sigmund Freud, who believed that unacceptable thoughts from early childhood are banished into the unconscious mind, but then influence thoughts, emotions and behaviour in later life.

      ‘Repressed’ feelings can surface as conflicts, depression, or through dreams or creative activities. The analyst seeks to interpret troubling feelings and relationships from the past, bringing them to the forefront of the client’s mind so that any negative feelings can be dealt with.

      ‘Transference’ is a method used, whereby clients are encouraged to subject their feelings about people and relationships in their life onto the analyst.

      This type of therapy is often used by clients suffering high levels of distress and can be a lengthy and intensive process.

    • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy/Counselling

      This approach stresses the importance of the unconscious and past experience in shaping current behaviour. The client is encouraged to talk with their therapist about childhood relationships with parents and other significant people, and the therapist focuses on the dynamics of the client/therapist relationship.

      ‘Transference’; when the client projects their feelings experienced in previous significant relationships on to the therapist, is a method used in this type of therapy.

      The psychodynamic approach is derived from psychoanalysis, but usually provides a quicker solution to emotional problems.

    • Psychosynthesis

      Sometimes described as ‘psychology of the soul’, this is the name given to a series of actions that lead to a change or development which encourages personal growth. This growth is achieved by bringing together someone’s emotional, mental, physical and spiritual attributes within a safe environment.

      Psychosynthesis is useful for people seeking a new, more spiritually oriented vision for the future.

  • R
    • Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

      This therapy is based on the idea that emotional and behavioural difficulties are the result of irrational thoughts and beliefs. The REBT approach helps the client to identify these thoughts and replace them with more rational and realistic assumptions and ideas.

      REBT is a subset of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

    • Re-Birthing

      This approach is based on the idea that emotional or physical traumas during birth are said to create feelings of separation or fear in later life.

      Breathing techniques are used to release tension whilst the client re-experiences traumatic emotions. A skilled practitioner is essential.

      When this approach is used by a therapist it is usually in addition to their main type of therapy.

    • Relationship Therapy

      Relationship counselling encourages the parties in a relationship to recognise repeating patterns of distress and to understand and manage troublesome differences that they are experiencing.

      The relationship involved may be between members of a family, a couple, or even work colleagues.

  • S
    • Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

      This type of therapy promotes positive change and aims to move the client on from dwelling on past problems.

      Clients are encouraged to focus positively on what they do well, to set goals and work out how to achieve them.

      As little as three or four sessions may be beneficial.

    • Systemic Therapies

      These are the therapies which aim to develop a change in the transactional pattern of members of a system. These therapies can be used as the generic term for family therapy and marital therapy.

  • T
    • Transactional Analysis

      Transactional Analysis is a comprehensive approach which incorporates aspects of humanistic, cognitive-behavioural and psychodynamic approaches to therapy. TA therapists categorise the human personality into three aspects – Parent, Adult and Child (called ego states) and they use this model to help clients understand how they interact with others. This can be particularly helpful in understanding what may be behind difficult or challenging relationships such as with a partner or work colleague/manager.

      A central concept in TA is the notion of people having a Life Script, which is a way of understanding an individual’s beliefs about oneself and others and how they interpret or understand the world around them. These Life Scripts may be recurrent patterns that people act out at an unconscious or preconscious level and which may perpetuate their difficulties. TA therapists seek to identify these limiting script beliefs and work with the client to help them to change these. As with many other therapeutic approaches, aspects of TA may be used by therapists working with other theoretical orientations.

    • Transpersonal Therapy

      This describes any form of counselling or therapy which places an emphasis on spirituality, human potential or heightened consciousness, including psychosynthesis.


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