So you’ve decided your mental health is worth taking seriously and you want to find someone to work with. Whether you’ve never worked with a counselor or you have been in counseling for many years, finding a new counselor can be a difficult and time-consuming task. After all, it’s a very vulnerable and personal journey to embark on with another person, especially one you haven’t met.
There are many philosophies and approaches to counseling. Understanding some of the major theories and practices you’ll encounter will help you better know what to expect and may help you in narrowing your search.
Aside from knowing what counseling styles a person uses, this article will touch on other considerations that can help in your search for the best mental health treatment practitioner for you.
Types of counseling theories/approaches and what to expect
These are the major counseling umbrellas used by modern practitioners. Each one describes the overarching philosophy and then lists a few common, but specific styles, under each that you can look into further if you like the sound of the broader theme.
This approach is sometimes also called the “historical perspective”. This theory of behavior and thought was developed by Sigmund Freud. Much like the name implies, it is rooted in discussing and analyzing events of the past and how they impact what is happening now.
The basic premise is that what you experience in the present is actually due to unconscious influences from past events, experiences, and relationships. It’s like a blueprint gets laid down from the past that functions as an unconscious “working model” that drives the thoughts and behaviors you have now.
In a visit utilizing psychodynamic counseling techniques, you can expect to dive deeply into your past and in particular your childhood. Traumatic events and relationships of influence, such as parental, will be a large focus. You will have to recall the memories of those times and relationships in detail. There may be memories you’ve not thought of for years or ever remembered that come to the surface during these sessions.
The reason for this process and analysis of how the events are affecting you now, is that once you call it out and recognize the pattern that has happened as a result, you can begin to heal it and change the pattern.
Psychoanalysis is commonly used for anxiety, depression, low-self esteem, social functioning problems, and emotional pain/difficulties in general.
The fundamental idea behind humanist counseling is that you, the individual, have all of the resources and knowledge within yourself to solve any problem. Its position is therefore that mental and emotional troubles happen when our ability to access that inner knowing or problem solver, is blocked in some way.
In this approach, the counselor does not lead you toward a solution because they don’t have one. You do, however, so the counselor's goal is to be more like a mirror. They help you navigate your experience and see your own solution through techniques like reflecting back on what you're saying, or what they perceive you mean when you say something.
This kind of counseling may take many sessions. The process will have you opening up and discussing how you feel and think at varying levels. The counselor will mostly ask questions to elicit your own inner knowing. In this way, you come to your own conclusions versus someone pointing out the solution as they see it.
Types of Humanistic Counseling
- Gestalt therapy
- Client-centered counseling
- Existential therapy
The theory of the cognitive therapy approach is that troublesome behaviors, and psychological and emotional distress, arise from thinking in a way that is out of sync with reality. One simple example is, “I feel like a failure”, when examples abound of how you’re not. Cognitive therapy might point out that you are thinking you're a failure but it’s not actually true, so changing your thinking is the way to solve the problem.
Whereas psychoanalytic therapy is a long process with lots of rapport and going through the past, cognitive therapy is often shorter in duration and is quite problem-focused. From a cognitive therapy approach, you might not necessarily be as focused on where the thinking came from, so much as discovering the thinking and working to change it.
In this type of counseling, expect to describe what you’re experiencing - what problems you’re trying to solve - and have your thinking related to those problems challenged to facilitate coming up with new mental constructs.
Types of Cognitive Counseling Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)
Behavioral theory takes the angle that problematic thinking and behavior comes from an environment that supports and reinforces those thoughts and behaviors.
Working with someone who takes a behavioral counseling approach, you’ll be discussing what the thinking and behaviors are that are problematic, and then dialoguing with the practitioner about the environmental factors that reinforce them. Work, social circles, marriage, etc. are common places where behaviors and thoughts get reinforced.
Addiction is an example that has environmental contributors to both the thinking that drives the substance use, as well as reinforces the behavior itself. In fact, people often use substances as a coping mechanism for their unhappiness or discomfort in a situation, like work or a relationship. Friends and social circles that use is another common reinforcing factor.
Replacing those with environments that reinforce the desired outcome, in this case, abstinence is a crucial part of addressing the problem.
Types of Behavioral Counseling Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
Many other types of counseling exist
This is only scratching the surface of what is available. As you can see with cognitive and behavioral approaches, there are a number of individual types of counseling that combine elements of both. Most mental health practitioners learn all of these counseling approaches and more. This allows them to find their own style, often using elements of more than one theory. It also allows a counselor to be adaptable to the problems that need to be addressed and use what works well for the person they’re working with.
A few other approaches you may encounter in while for mental health practitioners are psychedelic therapy, narrative therapy, and somatic counseling.
Mindful Care makes getting mental health treatment easy
We know that finding balance between work, life, and self-care can be difficult. That’s why Mindful Care has MicroTherapy sessions that are 20 minutes and problem-focused. We use evidence-based approaches that are directed at providing effective solutions you can implement right away.
Our counselors are all Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC) and sessions are all online. Getting mental health care has never been this easy or flexible.
Make yourself a priority and schedule a visit with one of Mindful Care’s skilled counselors today.