All the different types of counselling are based on theories that describe the same thing – human behaviour, so there is a lot of overlap between them. Often different words are used to describe very similar ideas. However, there are differences and therapy can feel very different depending on the approach adopted – and the counsellor’s individual style has an effect also. The most common style of counselling offered by the NHS is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or variations of it (e.g. DBT, ACT). The focus tends to be on how our thoughts affect our feelings; looking for patterns of negative thoughts and behaviours. It’s a very goal orientated approach and generally focuses on the present rather than exploring or understanding the past. Clients are usually given exercises for homework as part of the work.
The Person-Centred Approach to therapy, which is how I work, is different. There is still an appreciation of the link between feelings and behaviours, but the emphasis is more on tuning into and expressing our feelings – something we are often not very good at. The content and pace of our work together will be guided by you, and we work to build a relationship in which you feel safe, supported and understood as you explore potentially difficult emotions. We will collaborate to identify the areas of your life that are affecting your wellbeing and explore and reflect on these challenges together. The aim is to work towards increased self-awareness and self-acceptance, which in turn helps develop confidence and trust in oneself so that future challenges are easier to manage.
I’ve mentioned above the two most commonly offered approaches to counselling, but there are many more (e.g. Psychodynamic, Gestalt, DBT) , so do check when you make enquiries what approach the counsellor follows and ask them to explain if you aren’t sure what that means