What is counselling psychology, counselling and psychotherapy?
Counselling and psychotherapy aim to alleviate psychological distress through talking rather than medication. They are often referred to as 'talking therapies'. If we work together, we will think about how the events and experiences of your past affect your life in the present, and how patterns in relationships can re-occur in ways that may be unhelpful. Some people find that they want just a few sessions, perhaps 12 over 3 months, while others come for a year or more to be able to fully understand their distress.
Psychologists specialising in counselling and psychotherapy work with a wide range of distress usually at the point when it is severe enough to affect a person's wellbeing, work, relationships and other aspects of their daily lives. It can be so severe as to be defined in terms of mild to serious mental ill-health and many psychotherapy specialists work in health service settings.
All psychologists specialising in psychotherapy have degrees and postgraduate professional training in psychology and the practice of psychotherapy. Psychotherapists often describe their work in terms of the specific approaches in which they have trained.
The following are brief descriptions of these common approaches:
Psychoanalytic and psychodynamic approaches
These approaches focus on the ways early experiences in family relationships can affect our development and well being throughout life. Such experiences can have profound effects that are largely unconscious and therapists often work with clients to understand and ameliorate distress rooted in early experience. This is my preferred way of working with clients, although I will sometimes use techniques from the other approaches if it is appropriate for the client.
Cognitive and cognitive-behavioural approaches
These approaches focus on how we learn to think and behave. Psychological distress can be related to patterns of thinking and behaviour that cause difficulties and therapists often work with clients to identify these patterns and change them.
Humanistic and person-centred approaches
These approaches focus on the conditions that affect our sense of self and the ways we feel about and value ourselves. Much distress can be linked to a lack of self-worth and therapists often work with clients to understand how they have learnt to see themselves and to build self-esteem.
These approaches focus on systems of relationships in families and groups and the ways that individuals are shaped by group expectations and the roles they play. Therapists often work with individuals, families or groups to understand and change patterns of relationship that cause difficulties.