How does counselling help?

There are several broad types of counselling that you may be offered. In some counselling services there may be a choice, but in others the counsellors will have a more ‘integrated’ approach. All counsellors tailor what they offer to suit individual needs.

Counselling vocabulary

There are broadly 3 main approaches to counselling, with many sub-categories and ‘brands’ within these categories. You may not have a choice over which type of counselling is offered – although some services are able to offer a choice. However, all counsellors will tailor what they offer to suit it to what you need.

Psychodynamic counselling

Counselling which focuses on patterns of relationship, often helpful in understanding how early experiences might be affecting you in the present. Especially helpful for untangling ‘baggage’ which may be holding you back in your current relationships and attitudes to others. Understanding how your current attitudes and ways of interacting with others are caught up in old hurts can free you to choose more constructive ways forward.

Person-centred counselling

Counselling which respects individual uniqueness and steers clear of any form of advice, preferring to support you in finding your own meanings and solutions. Especially useful when your main need is for caring, non-judgemental support and a neutral space where you can get things off your chest.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

Counselling which is solution and action-focused, especially helpful in tackling unhelpful thinking habits. Has strong evidence for effectiveness in treating both depression and anxiety. Lends itself well to self-help – much of the self-help information on this site is based on CBT – so can be used alongside other approaches to counselling. Requires commitment and willingness to carry out ‘homework’ tasks and work towards agreed goals.

Integrative counselling

Many counsellors integrate aspects of each of these approaches, rather than working in only one way. This is especially true in the context of the short-term, focused approach that most counsellors working in universities and colleges would use.

How does counselling help?

A counsellor will aim to help you get a clear overview of the problem, as the basis for finding ways forward.

See the ‘Framework for understanding depression’ to see how a counsellor might help you to explore your depression story.

For some people, just the opportunity to talk to someone caring and supportive is enough to help them re-engage with their own coping resources. For others, a more detailed focus on what has gone wrong and how to put it right might be indicated.

Always be honest with your counsellor about whether the counselling sessions feel helpful or not, and if you aren’t getting the kind of help you want then let the counsellor know. Counselling works as a collaborative process, so it can’t help if you aren’t clear about what you want.

Next: Consulting a doctor

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Appointment preparation


What’s stopping you getting help?
How depression works
Depression factors