There are many different forms of counseling (talk therapy), and your counselor will likely ground any counseling with you in one or more of the more common methods of therapy.

Here is a brief overview of some of the more common forms of therapy offered by counselors today:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – One of the most studied and proven effective methods of therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy. Using CBT, clients are taught that it’s the way we think that creates the way we feel and in turn, the way we act – and if we can change certain unhealthy thinking patterns, we can also improve mood and reduce negative behaviors. CBT works well and it can work quickly. Although some forms of therapy can go on indefinitely, CBT continues just until results are seen (an average length of therapy is 16 sessions for CBT). Because CBT teaches practical exercises to change thinking and behavior patterns, it can be learned and practiced by the client and once learned, the benefits of the technique continue beyond the termination of therapy sessions. 1
  • Psychoanalysis – Psychoanalytic therapy, developed by Sigmund Freud, is a therapeutic technique which explores how unconscious motivations influence real life actions. Psychoanalysis is a long lasting form of therapy, whereby the therapeutic relationship between analyst and client can last for years.
  • Group Therapy – A therapy group typically consists of between 5 and 10 members who share a similar challenge or therapy goal and is led by a trained counselor or therapist. Group therapy may be process oriented, whereby the benefit occurs via learning from the interactions and experiences of being in the group, or it may be more educational in nature, whereby the group learns about and discusses some challenge or method of self-improvement related to the common interest of the group members. Group therapy typically costs about half as much as individual therapy. 2
  • Family Therapy – Family therapy helps people within the family learn better strategies and techniques for communication and encourages a better understanding of each person’s unique viewpoints and needs. A family therapist, as an unbiased and trained outsider, can help family members to resolve painful conflicts.3
  • Interpersonal Therapy – This type of counseling aims to decrease feelings of depression by increasing positive relationships as a way to improve wellbeing. Dissatisfaction within important interpersonal relationships is explored, with the therapist working  to help the client better understand sources of conflict and teaching methods, such as better communication, to improve the health of these relationships.4

How to Pick a Counselor?

Many people begin a counseling relationship via a direct referral from another health care professional, but some people decide on their own to seek out some form of therapy – and for people like this, knowing which of the many available therapists to work with can seem a very daunting task!

Some ways to narrow down the field of options include:

Deciding on what type of qualifications you require and eliminating those therapist that don’t meet your standard

  • Eliminating therapists who have little experience treating the specific challenge you want to work on.
  • Eliminating therapists who are inconvenient to work with or unaffordable.
  • Eliminating therapists who do not make you feel comfortable! Studies show that a counselor does not need a doctorate degree to be effective – but that unless the client believes the therapist likes him or her and unless the clients ‘buys’ in to the method of therapy, success is unlikely.5

Start with logistical and practical considerations, like picking counselors that you can afford or that will work with your insurance provider and that have experience in treating what you’d like to work on – and once you’ve narrowed down the field to ‘logical’ candidates, move away from the head and down to the heart, for a bit. Pick a counselor than makes sense, but also make sure to pick one that makes you feel safe, listened to and hopeful.

More than anything else, you need to feel comfortable with your counselor or therapist. Fortunately, most therapists will allow for trial sessions or meetings before beginning to charge for therapy, so you can get to know one another and discover whether or not you make a compatible therapeutic match.

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Page last updated Feb 28, 2011

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