4 Common Types of Counseling, Explained

In honor of National Counseling Month,here are the different types of counseling we offer at Doorways (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

In honor of National Counseling Month,here are just four different types of counseling we offer at Doorways (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

April is Counseling Awareness Month which provides us with an excellent opportunity to talk about the different types of therapy that are often grouped under the “counseling” category.  For anyone knew to mental health services, it can feel like the providers you are working with are speaking a different language.  Because there are several different therapeutic techniques available, seeking out services for your teen can easily become overwhelming.  To help you feel more comfortable reaching out and getting your teenager the help he or she needs, here is a breakdown of the most common types of psychotherapy in use today.   Gaining a basic understanding of the types of services available can help you to make an informed decision.  To help, here is a basic overview for each of the four most common types of counseling or therapeutic techniques used with teens.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

When people talk about going to “therapy” this is generally what they mean.  CBT is one of the most common types of therapy provided to teens and is often used as a foundation for treatment that can be combined with other types of therapy.  The premise of CBT is that our early lives including our childhood, upbringing, and the environment in which we were raised dictate who we become.   This means that the dysfunctional patterns and coping strategies we learned in our childhood and adolescence follow-us into adulthood.  CBT works to identify and replace the dysfunctional areas with healthy alternatives primarily through talk therapy.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy uses key behavioral modifications to effect change in thought patterns and emotional responses.  It is much more structured than CBT and focuses on changing behaviors in order to overcome challenges.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT uses the same techniques for learning to regulate and manage emotion as CBT but pairs them with practices like mindfulness and acceptance. Although this type of therapy was originally developed as a way to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it is also proving to be effective at helping those who participate in self-harm like cutting and those with mood spectrum disorders.

Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy takes a completely different approach to helping those with mental health concerns that the behavior based therapies listed above.  Here, any dysfunction resulting from childhood experiences, traumatic events, or learned behaviors is irrelevant.  Instead, this method of treatment centers on self-actualization, fostering the idea that people are responsible for their own choices and that what matters is taking responsibility for the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are being experienced.

It is important to remember that these are only the most common therapeutic approaches used in treating mental health concerns that are often combined with these foundational techniques to better meet the needs of the individual client.  Most mental health providers will have a variety of tools in their toolbox which enables them to tailor their approach to treatment to the strategies, techniques, and tactics that are the most suitable for the situation.

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