Forms of Counselling

Caring conversations happen best within a good group of friends or family. Its been said that good community is “when good friends and wise people turn their chairs inwards and talk well”.  This sort of  ‘therapeutic’ community is embedded in where we live, does not cost anything and will not easily go away. However, and there is no shame in this, there are certain times when seeing a counsellor or therapist is both necessary and helpful. Clear boundaries and seeing someone whom you do not also need to meet socially can be very helpful.

People can see someone at any stage in their lives for any reason, even if they are not ‘ill’. This is covered by terms like spiritual direction, life coaching and mentoring – as well as describing some types of counselling. However here we will focus on counselling for distress and illness.

Person-Centred [General] Counselling

This broad term covers most 1-2-1 meetings with a counsellor. Change comes from giving the person space to talk – often in weekly hour-long sessions that provide a containing structure and clear boundaries. People are assisted to reflect on their situation and find their own answers from the resources they have. This approach is good for the issues of life [debt, divorce, bereavement] and for general distress. There is less evidence it works in mental illness, but it can be helpful  if the person is well motivated.
Faith can be one such resources to draw on. Christian Counsellors use these skills, but typically supplement this with faith-based contributions, prayer and goals. Biblical Counselling explicitly emphasises the role of scripture and Biblical world-view in personal transformation.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

The way we behave and think affects our moods. Changing these things can improve mood. CBT is good for every-day anxiety and depression, and can be adapted for specific areas of anxiety such as PTSD, OCD and Eating Disorders. CBT Therapists are quite active in the sessions, almost like a personal trainer in a gym. So-called ‘Third Wave’ CBT brings in mindfulness as a skill to help with recurrent intrusive thoughts.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Here the emphasis is on understanding how a person’s upbringing have contributed to the unconscious thoughts and perceptions – and how these affect current behaviours and mental health. Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and Jungian Therapy are related terms.  They bring about change by helping process the defence mechanisms we use to avoid difficult and disabling emotions.

Other types of Therapy

Some therapies are fusions of two of the above types. Cognitive Analytical Therapy is good for complex and deep-seated depression. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy or Mentalization Based Therapy are good for personality disorders. There are many other forms too, such as Art Therapy, Family Therapy, Group Therapy, Couples Therapy.

How to find a good counsellor

The terms ‘counsellor’ and ‘therapist’ are regulated by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy to ensure adequate training and on-going quality.
-- Christian Counselling –
-- General Counselling –
-- Psychotherapy –
-- CBT –

Rob Waller, 20/01/2017
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