Your choice of therapy may be limited depending on where and how you access it. If you have a strong preference, you may wish to use a private therapist. Your relationship with your therapist is generally more important than the approach they use.
Adlerian therapy is an approach developed by Alfred Adler, who worked with Sigmund Freud. It is also known as individual psychology. Adlerian counsellors believe our experiences in early life, particularly within our families, affect the way we see the world and react to events. Even if we are not aware of them, the logic and goals we develop as children still govern our behaviour when we are adults. Your counsellor will help you to understand why you behave in the way you do so you can find ways to act more effectively.
Adlerian therapy is a positive and encouraging approach that can help individuals, couples and families. It works well for anxiety and anti-social behaviours.
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy which uses the creative process of making art to explore and communicate issues, feelings and emotions which may be too difficult or distressing to express in words. It can also be used to relieve stress, improve your mental wellbeing and increase self-awareness or cope. Visual art therapy can include drawing, painting, photography and modelling and is used with individuals and groups of all ages.
Arts therapists are psychological therapists who have arts-based experience and training in psychological interventions using drama, music or art to help clients communicate feelings and emotions. They are regulated under the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). See also Creative therapy.
Behavioural therapies are based on the belief that your unwanted or unhealthy behaviours are a learned response to your past experiences. They focus on current problems and aim to help you learn new, more positive behaviours without having to analyse the past.
Behavioural therapy often works well for compulsive and obsessive behaviours, fears, phobias and addictions.
Brief therapy is a short-term therapy which focuses on finding solutions and making positive changes rather than focusing on the past causes of problems. Your therapist will encourage you to look at what you do well, set goals and work out how to achieve them. This type of therapy can be effective in just three or four sessions.
Coaching supports individuals, teams or groups in achieving greater self-awareness, improved self-management skills and increased self-efficacy, so that you can develop your own goals and solutions. It is a collaborative, conversation-based process, which emphasises and builds on your existing and developing strengths. It is often focused on supporting you in making changes, either to how things are at present or to your near and distant future.
Sessions may be quite structured and directional or interactive, and can last up to three hours. Coaching may follow a specific model, but many coaches integrate more than one model, along with elements of therapeutic approaches such as person-centred, solution focused or CBT.
Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT)
CAT looks at your past experiences and relationships to understand why you think, feel and act as you do. It relies on forming a trusting relationship with your therapist, who will help you make sense of your situation and find new, healthier ways to cope with your problems. CAT is a time-limited therapy, typically lasting around 16 weeks.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
CBT aims to help you change the way you think (cognitive) and what you do (behaviour). Rather than looking at past causes, it focuses on current problems and practical solutions to help you feel better now.
The way we think about situations affects the way we feel and behave. If we view a situation negatively, we may experience negative emotions and feelings which lead us to behave in an unhelpful way. Your therapist will help you identify and challenge any negative thinking so you can deal with situations better and behave in a more positive way
CBT can be helpful for depression, anxiety, stress, phobias, obsessions, eating disorders and managing long term conditions.
Cognitive therapy is based on the theory that your previous experiences can damage your perception of yourself, which can affect your attitudes, emotions and your ability to deal with certain situations. It can help you to identify, question and change poor mental images of yourself, so guiding you away from negative responses and behaviour. It can help pessimistic or depressed people to view things from a more optimistic perspective.
Creative therapy includes a wide range of techniques which can help you find a way of expressing yourself beyond words or traditional talking therapies. It can include visual arts therapy, writing, sand play, dance movement therapy, drama therapy and music therapy. Therapists may use different approaches at different times to suit the needs of the client.
Creative therapists are psychological therapists who have arts-based experience and training in psychological interventions using drama, music or art to help clients communicate feelings and emotions. They are regulated under the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
An eclectic counsellor will use a range of different theories, methods and practices according to an individual client's needs. This is based on their belief that no particular theoretical approach works better than all others for a specific problem.
Emotionally focused therapy
Emotionally focused therapy is an approach for working with couples, families and individuals that helps to create and reinforce secure, resilient relationships. Therapists will help you understand your own and others' emotions, address any insecurities and conflicts, and learn to interact in a more responsive and emotionally-connected way.
Existential psychotherapy explores the inner conflict and anxiety people may experience when confronted with life's ultimate concerns, such as the inevitability of death, freedom and its responsibilities, isolation and meaninglessness.
Existentialists believe that life has no essential (given) meaning and that you have to make your own sense of the world. Counsellors can help you confront your anxieties and negative thoughts, enabling you to make decisions about how to live life and deal with life problems in your own way.
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR was developed to resolve symptoms resulting from disturbing and traumatic life experiences. It is particularly used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
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, helping the brain to process the unresolved memories and make them less distressing.
This type of therapy looks at a family system, and the relationships between people, rather than the individuals. It allows family members to express and explore difficult thoughts and emotions safely, helping them understand each other’s experiences and views, appreciate each other’s needs and build on their strengths. It can help with many issues that affect the family unit, helping people make useful changes in their relationships and their lives.
The name Gestalt is derived from the German for ‘whole’ or ‘pattern’. It looks at the individual as a whole, and within their surroundings, rather than breaking things into parts. Practitioners help you to focus on the here and now and your immediate thoughts, feelings and behaviour to better understand how you relate to others and to situations. This can help you find a new, positive perspective on problems and bring about changes in your life.
Gestalt therapy often includes acting out scenarios and dream recall, and is effective in treating issues such as anxiety, stress, addiction, tension and depression.
This approach focuses on the individual as a whole. It encourages people to think about their feelings and take responsibility for their thoughts and actions. The emphasis is on self-development and achieving your highest potential rather than on problematic behaviour. Gestalt therapy, person-centred therapy, transactional analysis and transpersonal therapy are all humanistic approaches.
Also called analytical psychology, this is a psychoanalytic approach developed by Carl Jung. It aims to bring the conscious and unconscious into balance to help individuals become more balanced and whole. It looks at both the personal unconscious and the collective human unconscious, and can involve dream analysis, word associations and creative activities.
Jungian therapy can be of benefit for a wide range of personal, emotional and behavioural issues. It can give you a better understanding of yourself and help you develop the skills and behaviours to manage your difficulties more effectively.
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)
NLP combines cognitive behavioural and humanistic therapies with hypnotherapy. It works on the theory that life experiences, from birth onwards, programme the way you see the world. Practitioners help you to discover how you have learnt to think or feel so that you can take control of your actions. They will also look at your successes, so you can use these to develop further successful skills and behaviours.
Person or client-centred therapy is based on the view that everyone has the capacity and desire for personal growth and change, given the right conditions. Rather than being seen as the expert and directing the therapy, the counsellor offers unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence to help you come to terms with any negative feelings and to change and develop in your own way.
A phenomenological approach looks at an individual's perception and experience of a situation or event rather than its external reality. A therapist can help to understand why you see things in this way and discover more helpful ways of thinking and behaving.
Primarily used with children, this uses play as a communication tool to help them express their feelings and deal with emotional problems. It can be used to diagnose the reasons for difficult behaviour, to allow children to work through their anxieties or as a relearning and desensitisation therapy.
Primal Therapy is based on the theory that distress which has occurred at birth or during infancy can resurface as a phobia, obsession or other issue. The therapist takes you back to the ‘primal scene’ where the trauma can be re-experienced as an emotional cleansing. Therapists using this approach will usually have had core training in another therapy.
This is based on the work of Sigmund Freud, who believed that psychological problems are rooted in the unconscious mind. Experiences from a person’s past can influence thoughts, emotions and behaviour in later life. The analyst will encourage you to talk about your experiences and use techniques such as free association or dream analysis to identify repressed feelings or conflicts that are affecting you now. Bringing these to the front of your mind allows any negative feelings to be dealt with.
The psychodynamic approach is derived from psychoanalysis, but focuses on immediate problems to try to provide a quicker solution. It stresses the importance of the unconscious and past experience in shaping current behaviour. A therapist will aim to build an accepting and trusting relationship, encouraging you to talk about your childhood relationships with your parents and other significant people. It also uses similar techniques to psychotherapy, including free association, interpretation and especially transference, where feelings you experienced in previous significant relationships are projected onto the therapist.
Sometimes described as ‘psychology of the soul’, this approach seeks to bring together your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual attributes to encourage personal development. Psychosynthesis is useful for people seeking a new, more spiritually oriented vision of themselves to enable change and growth.
Relationship therapy 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.
Solution-focused brief therapy
This therapy promotes positive change rather than dwelling on past problems. Practitioners will encourage you to focus positively on what you do well, set goals and work out how to achieve them. Just three or four sessions may be beneficial.
These are therapies which aim to change the transactional pattern of members of a system. Systemic therapy can be used as a generic term for family therapy and marital therapy.
Transactional analysis is a comprehensive approach which incorporates aspects of humanistic, cognitive-behavioural and psychodynamic therapy. It categorises the human personality into three states – Parent, Adult and Child – which can help you understand how you interact with others.
Therapists also look at how your beliefs and the way you interpret the world around you can create recurrent and problematic patterns of behaviour, and will work with you to help you to change.
Transpersonal therapy describes any form of counselling or therapy which places an emphasis on spirituality, human potential or heightened consciousness, including psychosynthesis.
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What therapy can help with
An A-Z list of issues and concerns which may be helped by talking to a counsellor.
How to get therapy
Where, when and how you can get access to counselling and psychotherapy.
How to find a therapist
How to use the BACP Register and our online therapist directory to find the right counsellor or psychotherapist for you.