It can be hard to anticipate what to expect when going to counselling for the first time. You may feel that you have no idea what to expect at all or you have a pre-conceived notion of counselling as being a certain way, perhaps due to media portrayals or the experience of a friend or relative.
In reality, counselling has a variety of modalities which can be offered to clients and this means that whatever you are seeking from counselling, there should be something which will feel right for you. At the heart of therapy is the relationship between the counsellor and you, and so it is important that you feel you can be honest if a particular type of counselling, or counsellor, does not feel the right fit for you. There are many branches of therapy that may suit you more.
Counselling has traditionally fallen largely into 3 ‘categories’: behavioural, psychoanalytical and humanistic. Below you can find a list of modalities which fall within these categories, as well as an explanation of the focus of this type of therapy. Some psychological therapies do not fit into these categories and so have been marked as ‘other’.
At Warwick University, the counselling service is committed to offering therapy with your needs at the heart of the work. Unfortunately not all of the below can always be offered within Warwick’s counselling service at all times, but the counsellors can offer a range of techniques from differing modalities.
Should you wish to find a therapist outside of the University, you can use a variety of search engines, including the below:
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
The aim of acceptance and commitment therapy is to aid individuals in creating mindful relationships with their experiences, including any difficulties they are experiencing. People are encouraged to think within the here and now and to identify their value systems, which they will then set goals in line with, to work towards feeling a greater sense of wellbeing.
“Happiness is… living in accord with your values and in a way that is more open and accepting of your history as it echoes into the present, more self-affirming, self-validating and values-based.” Steven C Hayes, founder of ACT
Behavioural Activation (BA)
Behavioural activation is a technique used in some behavioural therapies, whereby an individual looks at behaviours and thought patterns and what activities they participate in which reinforce these. The therapy then focuses on what behavioural changes can take place within the individual’s day to day life which will encourage engagement in ‘positive’ activities, and decrease engagement in those which have been identified as maintaining negative feelings.
Behavioural therapy works on the premise that the behaviours we all display are learnt throughout our lives and so it is also possible to ‘unlearn’ these. They can then be replaced with behaviours which may help an individual feel more in control in certain areas of their life. This involves challenging fears and assumptions directly, such as facing your phobia or source of anxiety. It can be particularly useful for the treatment of phobias, addiction and conditions such as OCD.
Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT)
In cognitive analytic therapy, individuals are encourage to explore past events in their lives and how these link to present day responses and feelings. The cognitive side of this then looks at developing new ways of coping, based on the understanding that has been gained.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy explores an individual’s emotions, feelings and thoughts and looks at the ways these can interplay. Through working together with the therapist, the individual will challenge the processes and patterns of behaviour they regularly experience and will work at creating different links, which can allow them to move forwards.
Cognitive restructuring is a technique whereby an individual looks at their ‘automatic thoughts’, which are negative thought processes which stem from a person’s beliefs about themselves and the world around them. These are explored and the ways they distort the individual’s view are examined, so a rational dispute can be developed. This enables the individual to be able to think things through in a different way.
Dialectic Behavioural Therapy
Dialectic Behavioural Therapy was developed specifically to help those with borderline personality disorders, but is now recognised in treating more widespread conditions. The specific focus is to aid individuals who experience very intense emotions. Individuals will work at finding a balance between accepting situations and changing thought processes. The aim is to move towards emotional regulation and being more able to tolerate distressing emotions. DBT often involves attending one-to-one sessions, as well as a group session, weekly.
“Radical acceptance rests on letting go of the illusion of control and a willingness to notice and accept things as they are right now, without judging.” Marsha M. Linehan, founder of DBT
Exposure and Habituation
Exposure and Habituation is a therapeutic technique which can help individuals to challenge fears and phobias. It is often used as a treatment for OCD. The premise is that the stimuli that cause fear for a person will be worked with, so they become habituated to these objects, thoughts or events. This involves exposure to what is feared and working through the thoughts which occur. The aim is to build confidence that negative consequences will not necessarily occur when a person interacts with what worries them.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a method of therapy centred around sensory input, in which the counsellor uses eye movement and tapping techniques in order to aid an individual in overcoming traumas which they have experienced. The aim is to change the way the memory is stored, so that it can be processed and the impact reduced on a day to day level. It will be required to recall traumatic events, whilst guided through 8 phases of therapeutic work.
“Changing the memories that form the way we see ourselves also changes the way we view others. Therefore, our relationships, job performance, what we are willing to do or are able to resist, all move in a positive direction.” Helen Shapiro, founder of EMDR
Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)
Rational emotive behaviour therapy is a form of cognitive behavioural therapy in which individuals assess the impact of different events- looking at the belief they formed from this and the possible emotional response this then triggers. This can help people to identify beliefs they hold which may be irrational, and in turn challenge them to create new patterns of thinking.
"The past influences everything and dictates nothing." Adam Phillips, British psychotherapist and essayist.
Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy (DIT)
Dynamic interpersonal therapy is a short-term therapy (typically 16 sessions), which explores the links between an individual’s relationships and the issues that they are currently encountering. This will involve looking at past situations involving loved ones/ friends/ colleagues and how you felt and behaved at the time. By exploring the way a person relates to others, behaviour patterns can be worked on and DIT therapy believes that better patterns of relating will lead to less negative psychological feelings.
Jungian Therapy aims to balance the conscious and unconscious parts of an individual’s mind. Many differing techniques may be used, including dream analysis and word association. Jungian therapy looks at aiding an individual to understand themselves better and thus develop ways to handle difficult areas of their life in a way that suits them. Jung believed that the personal subconscious is important, but so is the collective human subconscious, which will also influence an individual’s life.
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become” Carl Jung, founder of Jungian therapy
Psychoanalysis is a long-term, intensive form of therapy originally founded by Sigmund Freud, with many developments in theory and technique since. Difficulties are thought to stem from emotional conflicts repressed in childhood being repeated in the present. Psychoanalysis explores contemporary difficulties via the analysand (patient) saying whatever comes into his/her mind (‘free association'); through the unconscious reconstruction of previous relationships with the analyst (the ‘transference relationship’); and through considering the analysand’s defences in response to the analyst’s interpretations. The Psychoanalyst remains as neutral as possible, having undertaken a long and rigorous training and been analysed him/herself.
“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.” Sigmund Freud, founder of Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy is very similar to Psychoanalysis, but less intensive, and can be short, medium, or long-term. Like Psychoanalysts, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapists can specialise in working with adults, or with children and adolescents (aged 0-25). In addition to Freud and contemporary post-Freudian theory, Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapists also draw on the theory and techniques of Melanie Klein and/or Anna Freud and their contemporary successors.
Psychodynamic Psychotherapy/ Counselling
Psychodynamic therapy tends to be shorter term and focusses on the present situation of an individual and resolving issues which may be being experienced. As in therapies such as psychoanalysis, there will be a focus on aiding the individual to bring to consciousness some of their unconscious thoughts and habits, in order to challenge these and move forwards.
Existential therapy has its basis in philosophy and looks at the condition of being human. An individual can be in conflict with the ‘givens’ of existence (freedom and responsibility, existential isolation, meaninglessness and death), which can cause current stresses and anxieties. Exploration of an individual’s values, assumptions and ideals will aid with identifying and working through these conflicts and help insight be gained.
Gestalt therapy revolves around the principle of non-judgemental self-awareness. An individual is encouraged to think and feel in the present moment and respect their own individuality. There is a belief that individuals can be ‘whole’ when they accept themselves, which includes the mind, body and soul. Creative techniques may be used and the therapist will observe and notice elements such as body language, to aid the individual in gaining self-awareness.
Person-Centred Therapy (Client-centred therapy)
Person-centred therapy works around acceptance and believing that every individual has an inner tendency towards reaching their full potential, which can become distorted through external experiences. The therapist will facilitate the individual to explore their own experience and perspective, helping identify a person’s values and aiding someone to work in-line with these, rather than perceived ‘ideals’ they may have been taught.
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)
Solution- focussed brief therapy involves a collaborative relationship, in which the client is asked specifically constructed questions, in order for the therapist to gauge their response to these. These will range from questions about visualising the future, to exploring how an individual currently copes with certain situations. The answers will help tailor an understanding of the individual’s present situation and desired future, which can then be worked towards.
Transactional Analysis (TA)
Transactional analysis is a therapy which explores an individual’s personality and how this has been shaped over time. It utilises the theory that each individual has three ego states: parent, adult and child. These are shaped throughout our lives and each individual can communicate with others within any of these three ‘states’, which affects how they express themselves. These states will often be the source of repetitive patterns of behaviour and thoughts within an individual. This therapy can be useful to address relational conflicts and promotes personal growth and awareness.
“The destiny of every human being is decided by what goes on inside his skull, when confronted by what goes on outside his skull.” Eric Berne, founder of Transactional Analysis
Art/ Music/ Dance Therapy
These types of therapy focus on using an alternative form of expression and can help aid an individual to communicate and explore feelings that they may be experiencing. The medium is used as a tool within the work and can help build areas such as self-awareness, by reflecting on the work, as well as self-esteem and confidence. Acceptance may be built, through an individual being able to express their inner thoughts through another medium.
Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT)
Compassion focussed therapy was originally designed to help individuals who experienced feelings of shame and is a useful model for people who are self-critical. It utilises some cognitive behaviour techniques. The therapy aims to balance 3 different systems that we all have within us and by doing so, allows individuals to feel more compassionate towards themselves and others.
Emotionally Focussed Therapy (EFT)
Emotionally focussed therapy is undertaken between multiple people, to explore and strengthen their relationship. It is a short-term therapy which focusses on attachment and building more secure bonds. Existing patterns are explored, in order to move a relationship forwards. This is a three stage process: de-escalating negative cycles of interactions, re-structuring these and then consolidating what has been learnt, by reflecting upon this and trying to prevent similar cycles being repeated by these individuals in the future.
Family Therapy (Systemic Therapy)
Family therapy is a form of group therapy, in which members of a family will engage therapeutically. The goal is to improve the quality of interactions between members of a family and to work towards modifying the family structure, so that each of the individuals within it feel the boundaries around them are appropriate and that they are able to communicate more effectively.
Integrative therapy uses a variety of techniques from many other forms of therapy, which the therapist feels are right for the individual. It revolves around the belief that there is no one ‘right’ way to explore human psychology and that each person requires a differing approach. It aims to facilitate wellness as a whole, and will work around the goals an individual feels they wish to meet within therapy, adapting methods from other therapies such as cognitive, behavioural and psychoanalytic.
Schema therapy uses a combination of techniques from different types of therapy. It works around the principle that each individual has ‘schemas’, which are powerful long standing patterns and beliefs, which are often reinforced by day to day patterns of behaviour and thinking. The therapy aims to explore and break the negative schemas that an individual holds and replace them with more positive ones. It can include imagery, role-play and other creative techniques and is often recommended should traditional cognitive therapies not have felt successful for the individual.