A Quick Guide to Counseling Approaches

Computer-Generated Image of a Person Untangling the Brain of a Human Bust

Mental health professionals may use the techniques of a single approach or switch between different approaches when practicing therapy. There’s no hard-and-fast rule that says counselors have to adhere to a single approach.

Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at the many approaches that counselors have at their disposal.

Psychodynamic Counseling

A psychodynamic approach to counseling is pretty common in therapy. Through this approach, counselors encourage individuals, couples, and groups to talk freely about their deepest fears, desires, and emotions in an attempt to deduce how irrational urges and formative experiences drive present attitudes.

A therapist may try to uncover these drives through the following techniques:

Humanistic Counseling

A humanistic approach to counseling is almost entirely client-centered. The counselor’s job is to provide them with a non-judgmental and supportive environment in which they can realize their full potential.

At no point during humanistic therapy does the counselor provide direction to the client. Instead, they provide an empathetic ear and let them do most of the talking. Their job, here, is to accept, not dictate, the flow of things.

Behavioral Counseling

A behavioral approach to counseling is grounded in the idea that humans are affected by their surrounding environment. They may engage in problematic attitudes and behaviors only when their surroundings support them.

During behavioral therapy, counselors work with the client to identify and replace the specific factors in their environment that might be reinforcing problematic patterns.

Computer-Generated Image of a Human Brain Filled with Different Objects, Habits, and TasksReality Therapy

Counselors use reality therapy to highlight the control humans have over their behaviors. Like humanistic therapy, a reality therapist provides a non-judgmental and positive environment to their client, so they can rediscover the power of control and rational choice.

The therapy guides clients towards making decisions that align with their intentions and promotes a sense of individual responsibility.

Cognitive-Behavioral Counseling

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a combination of cognitive and behavioral approaches to counseling. Through this approach, a counselor attempts to draw a connection between a person’s attitudes and their current feelings.

CBT is based on the following core principles.

  • Emotional disorders stem partially or fully from one’s thought process.
  • Emotional disorders are helped, in part, by unhelpful habits.
  • Like learning unhelpful patterns, people can learn how to cope with psychological and emotional disorders.

During CBT, a counselor may apply strategies like:

  • Cognitive restructuring
  • Exposure therapy
  • Guided discovery
  • Journaling
  • Behavioral experiments
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Activity scheduling
  • Roleplaying

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