Counselling Models

There are many great ways of practising counselling or psychotherapy and this can make it confusing to know how to choose an appropriate therapist.

Research suggests that the therapeutic relationship itself is more important for a good outcome than the particular theories your therapist favours. This means that if your therapist succeeds in helping you to feel safe, accepted and treated with respect and perhaps also challenges you in a positive constructive way, you are likely to be able to make good use of your sessions.

It can nevertheless be useful to have some understanding of the wide range of approaches that therapists may have been trained in and will use in deciding how to work with you. You may find one approach more appealing than another or find that some approaches are more suited to your particular needs than others.

Different approaches to counselling have different ideas about human development, where psychological problems come from and the best way to use ‘talking therapy’ to help. Some counsellors, for example, will encourage you to take the lead in what is discussed and to support you in realising that you are actually more capable and resourceful than you may feel. Others may be more ‘directive’ and will teach you ways of changing your beliefs and behaviour by, for example giving you ‘homework’ exercises.

Below is a list of some of the different types of counselling with a brief description - please click a type below to move to the relevant information. 


Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) combines both cognitive therapy and behavioural therapy and focuses on the relationships and connections between your thoughts, your feelings and your behaviour. By identifying the pattern between these three key components, the client develops an understanding of how their thoughts, emotions, and behavior all influence each other. The client is able to pinpoint the destructive thoughts that create negative emotions, which fuel problematic behavior. The client then learns how to restructure the way they think to develop healthier thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours.

CBT suggests that our thoughts, behaviours, emotions and physical reactions are closely connected. What goes on in each one of these areas also affects the others. By making changes in one area we will automatically affect the other areas in the cycle.

How does it work?

  • CBT supports you to make lasting changes that improve your current situation and teaches you techniques and tools to use should any issues recur or you face new challenges.
  • CBT helps you identify and re-evaluate negative thoughts, beliefs and patterns of thinking.
  • CBT helps you to challenge and change unhelpful thoughts that contribute to issues such as anger, anxiety and depression.
  • CBT helps you understand and tolerate emotional distress. It can help you to calm yourself and your emotions, and transform overwhelming negative emotions into more manageable feelings.
  • CBT teaches you to recognise and respond to uncomfortable physical reactions and sensations, thereby helping you to reduce and manage them more effectively 


This approach is based on the idea that there are certain therapeutic conditions which are the key to successful personal growth. Most counsellors will have learnt about the ideas of Carl Rogers, who emphasized the importance of the counsellor being warm, empathic, non-judgmental and non –directive. A client in ‘pure’ person-centred counselling is particularly likely to feel accepted, supported and encouraged. The counsellor is very unlikely to give specific advice or suggestions about what the client should do.

The therapy relies on the quality of the relationship between the counsellor and the client. This is sometimes called a ‘way of being’, with the counsellor demonstrating what is known as the core conditions, which form the basis of the relationship.

In the Person-Centred Approach the counsellor trusts the client to find their own answers and direction. The counsellor is a fellow traveller on the client's journey, helping the client to understand how they interact with the world and helping them to develop a greater sense of self-awareness in a (physically and psychologically) safe environment.

The essential qualities needed to create this environment are empathy, acceptance and congruence. These core conditions, are at the heart of the Person-Centred Approach.

Person-centred counselling appeals to many people as it is client-led, giving the client control over what is discussed in the therapy session; although all orientations should operate in this way. Many people are understandably attracted to the empathetic and non-judgemental nature of person-centred counselling.


Psychodynamic therapy focuses on self-awareness of the client's actions and behaviours. Psychodynamic therapy is similar to CBT in that it works to understand how beliefs, thoughts, behavior, and emotions are interconnected. However, it focuses on the unconscious beliefs and emotions that tend to trigger the negative thoughts, emotions, and behavior, rather than conscious, automatic thoughts that occur in initial reactions to situations.

Psychodynamic counselling developed form psychoanalysis. It focuses on the unconscious mind and past experiences, and explores their influence on current behaviour. You will be encouraged to talk about childhood relationships with parents and other significant people. As part of the therapy you may transfer and pass on deep feelings about yourself, parents and others to the therapist. Although psychodynamic counselling can be practised in a short series of sessions, it is more usual for it to be a relatively lengthy process. It is likely to appeal to people who are interested in exploring their own unconscious processes and who can accept that the changes they are seeking may take time to achieve.

Integrative Counselling is when several distinct models of Counselling and Psychotherapy are used together in a converging way rather than separately. Many counsellors use one core theoretical model of counselling but draw on techniques and styles from other approaches when appropriate.