This explanation of theoretical approaches is taken from the BAC web site:
Both counsellors and psychotherapists work from a variety of theoretical approaches with their clients. These therapies range from the type of psychoanalysis, originally practised by Sigmund Freud and later developed into other forms of analytic psychotherapy by his pupils, through humanistic psychotherapy (based on personal growth and self development) to the behavioural therapies used for dealing with specific phobias and anxieties.
The following is an alphabetical list of commonly used theoretical approaches with brief descriptions of their meanings:
This is sometimes called individual psychology and uses the personality theory and system of counselling originated by Alfred Adler. Rather than psychoanalysis, Adler placed greater emphasis on infantile experiences of power and powerlessness and the goal-orientation of human behaviour. He created the terms “inferiority complex” and “superiority complex”.
This therapy is based on the belief that behaviour is learnt in response to past experience and can be unlearnt, or reconditioned, without analysing the past to find the reason for the behaviour. It works well for compulsive and obsessive behaviour, fears, phobias and addictions.
Brief therapy (see also Solution focused brief therapy)
This uses the cognitive behavioural approach with a small, planned number of sessions and possibly a single follow-up session after some time has elapsed.
Client-centred counselling (see Person-centred counselling)
Cognitive analytical therapy
This combines cognitive therapy and psychotherapy and encourages clients to draw on their own resources to develop the skills to change destructive patterns of behaviour. Negative ways of thinking are explored and treatment is structured and directive involving diary-keeping, progress charts, etc.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
This combines cognitive and behavioural techniques. Clients are taught ways to change thoughts and expectations and relaxation techniques are used. It has been effective for stress-related ailments, phobias, obsessions, eating disorders and (at the same time as drug treatment) major depression.
Uses the power of the mind to influence behaviour. It is based on the theory that previous experiences can adversely affect self-perception and condition attitude, emotions and ability to deal with certain situations. It works by helping the client to identify, question and change self-denigrating thoughts, thus altering habitual responses and behaviour. It can help pessimistic or depressed people to view things from a more optimistic perspective.
An eclectic counsellor will select what is applicable to the client from a range of theories, methods and practices. Justification is based on the theory that there is no proof that any one theoretical approach works better than all others for a specific problem.
Existentialists believe that life has no essential (given) meaning: any meaning has to be found or created. Existential counselling involves making sense of life through a personal world view and includes a willingness to face one’s life and life problems.
The name is derived from the German for “organized whole”. Developed by Fritz Perls, it is based on his belief that the human response to experiences is summed up in a person’s thoughts, feelings and actions. The client gains self-awareness by analysing behaviour and body language and giving expression to repressed feelings. Treatment often includes acting out scenarios and dream recall.
This embraces techniques coming from the “personal growth movement” and encourages people to explore their feelings and take responsibility for their thoughts and actions. Emphasis is on self-development and achieving highest potential rather than dysfunctional behaviour. “Client-centred” or “non-directive” approach is often used and the therapy can be described as “holistic”. The client’s creative instincts may be used to explore and resolve personal issues.
This is when several distinct models of counselling and psychotherapy are used together in a converging way rather than in separate pieces.
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 a person sees the world. The practitioner helps the client to discover how he (or she) has learnt to think or feel so that he can take control of his actions. The client is taught how to change speech and body language in order to communicate better and bring about personal change.
Devised by Carl Rogers and also called “client-centred” or “Rogerian” counselling, this is based on the assumption that an individual (client), seeking help in the resolution of a problem he (or she) is experiencing, can enter into a relationship with another individual (counsellor) who is sufficiently accepting and permissive to allow the client to freely express emotions and feelings. This will enable the client to come to terms with negative feelings, which may have caused emotional problems, and develop inner resources. The objective is for the client to become able to perceive himself as a person, with the power and freedom to change, rather than as an object.
This is based on the theory that suppressed birth or infancy traumas can resurface as neuroses. The therapy takes the client back to the “primal scene” where trauma can be re-experienced as an emotional cleansing.
This is based on the work of Sigmund Freud, who believed that the unacceptable thoughts of early childhood are banished to the unconscious mind but continue to influence thoughts, emotions and behaviour. “Repressed” feelings can surface later as conflicts,depression, etc or through dreams or creative activities. The analyst seeks to interpret and make acceptable to the client’s conscious mind, troublesome feelings and relationships from the past. “Transference” onto the analyst, of feelings about figures in the client’s life, is encouraged. This type of therapy is often used by clients suffering high levels of stress and can be a lengthy and intensive process.
This approach stresses the importance of the unconscious and past experience in determining current behaviour. The client is encouraged to talk about childhood relationships with parents and other significant people and the therapist focuses on the client/therapist relationship (the dynamics) and in particular on the transference. Transference is when the client projects onto the therapist feelings experienced in previous significant relationships. The psychodynamic approach is derived from Psychoanalysis but usually provides a quicker solution to emotional problems.
Sometimes described as “psychology of the soul”, Psychosynthesis aims to integrate or “synthesize” the level of consciousness, at which thoughts and emotions are experienced, with a higher, spiritual level of consciousness. Painting, movement and other techniques can be used to recognize and value different facets of the personality. Psychosynthesis is useful for people seeking a new, more spiritually oriented vision of themselves.
In this approach, 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.
Solution-focused brief therapy
This promotes positive change rather than dwelling on past problems. Clients are encouraged to focus positively on what they do well and to set goals and work out how to achieve them. As little as 3 or 4 sessions may be beneficial.
These are the therapies which have, as their aim, a change in the transactional pattern of members. It can be used as the generic term for family therapy and marital therapy.
This is based on the belief that everyone has a child, adult and parent self within them and, within each social interaction, one self predominates. By recognising these roles, a client can choose which one to adopt and so change behaviour. This form of therapy has produced the term “inner child”, used to describe unfulfilled needs from childhood.
This describes any form of counselling or therapy which places emphasis on spirituality, human potential or heightened consciousness. It includes psychosynthesis.
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