Types of Therapy

There are many kinds of talking therapy, with a lot of overlap between them. Therapists have different types of training, so their approach and way of working will vary. In addition, therapists will develop their own individual style of working. Some will use a mixture of approaches with the same person, or change their approach depending on the needs of the person.

Perhaps more important than ‘which type of therapy or approach’ does the counsellor/therapist use, is that research shows how you get on with the individual therapist is the most influential aspect for a successful outcome.  If you and the therapist can work well together, trust and respect each other, it is more likely to work for you.


Counselling can help both ordinary problems of living and life crises. It can help you stay well and prevent mental health problems. There is evidence that counselling can help people who are adjusting to life events such as bereavement, post-natal depression, illness, disability or loss. Users say supportive counselling can help you through a difficult time, and it can help you become aware of and guard against too much stress in your life.

Counselling helps you to look at problems you are facing now. You will be encouraged to talk about the feelings you have about yourself and your situation, and the counsellor will explore with you, ways to tackle them.

Counselling can be long or short term, depending on your difficulty. The more long standing the problem the longer the counselling is likely to take, although this is not always the case.


Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) aims to help people change patterns of thinking or behaviour that are causing problems. Changing how you think and behave also changes how you feel. It is a structured approach – you agree goals for treatment with your therapist and try things out between sessions. CBT is often conducted over a short term such as 

6 – 12 sessions.


Integrative or eclectic counselling means that the counsellor will generally use a mixture of approaches with the same person, or change their approach depending on the needs of the person. For example, the counsellor may use a ‘psychodynamic approach’ to help their client understand how painful feelings in the present may have its roots in the past, but in order to help their client change their feelings, they may then use a ‘CBT’ or ‘solution focused’ approach.. The change in approach is unlikely to be obvious, as the counsellor may switch back and forth throughout a session.


Person Centred counselling was created by Carl Rogers who, as a child, spent a lot of time observing nature. He thought that individuals were basically good and always strove to improve themselves, despite the many difficulties life throws at us all. Carl Rogers observed that even in a dark cellar a potato shoot will grow towards the light. The style of therapy is that both counsellor and client are equal partners in the relationship. The counsellor does not seek to diagnose the client or impose his or her world view or professional opinion. Each counselling session is seen as the client’s quality time to talk about his or her issues; the counsellor does not set the agenda. Person Centred counselling looks at feelings in a non judgemental way. Respect for the client’s individual world is paramount and a Person Centred counsellor would not seek to change a client’s thoughts in any particular way. Change and therapeutic growth occurs naturally at the client’s own pace.


These involve a therapist listening to your experiences, exploring connections between present feelings and actions and past events. It aims to help you understand more about yourself and your relationships. Psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapy may often continue for a year or more, but can sometimes be short term.


Living with persistent pain can be extremely difficult to do and people often find pain begins to impact on many areas of their life, such as the ability to do valued activities, work and relationships. People subsequently can get frustrated, angry, fearful and/or depressed as a consequence of living with pain. These changes in mood can then have further knock on effects on managing the pain and can be as distressing and debilitating as the pain itself.

Pain management will not take the pain away, but will help provide strategies to help manage the impact the pain is having. Pain management is a predominantly CBT approach which aims to help people manage the associated distress, identify and break any unhelpful cycles that may have developed in relation to the pain and work toward improving and achieving a life of quality despite the pain.

*Department of Health