What is Counseling?

Counseling is, “the process of assisting and guiding clients, by a trained individual on a professional basis, to resolve especially personal, social, or psychological problems and difficulties.” The major goal of counseling is to make the clients (individuals seeking professional help) independent to take charge of their life. The counselor accepts the client with unconditional positive regard, understand the client’s perspective, the client’s viewpoint and then through various therapies assists and guides the client to look through different perspectives to come out of the situation and handle it in a more effective manner.


Common Myths About Counseling:

  • Counseling is only for people who have serious mental and emotional problems.

  • Seeking counseling is a sign of weakness.

  • If I go for counseling, everyone will know about it.

  • If I go to counseling, they’re just going to give me a pill.

  • A counselor cannot understand me unless we have similar experiences and background.

  • The counselor will just tell me what my problems are and how to ‘fix’ them.

  • Counseling doesn’t work at all.

  • I will be judged and labelled if I go to a counselor.


Educational Qualifications for a Counselor:

In India, a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology follows by a Master of Arts (MA) Degree or a Master of Science Degree (MSc) in Psychology with Clinical or Counseling specializations in education, chosen  through the Arts (Social Sciences) or Science stream. 


Knowing Which Therapy Your Counselor Practices:

If you have decided to seeking professional help of a counselor, the next step is to understand and find out your counselor’s therapy specialization. It is very essential to understand that different therapy approaches suit the requirement of different people. Doing your groundwork before taking an appointment can be a helpful choice. Asking your counselor about which therapy they practice can help in making a decision.


Different Types of Counseling Approaches And Therapies:

There are many types of therapies in counseling. We could help you understand a few approaches in this article.

Rational Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy (RE&CBT): This is a directive therapy and focuses on bringing emotional disturbances down by working with rigid, disturbance generating attitudes and increasing goal directed behaviors. The counselor works with the client to help them in change their dysfunctional thought patterns and beliefs. RE&CBT has been shown to be beneficial in working with a range of presenting concerns such as:  Anxiety disorders, Depression, Eating disorders, Substance addictions, Personality disorders, Relationship problems, Self Esteem Issues among others.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): Similar to RE&CBT above, they are both sister therapies (founded by different founding fathers and contemporaries) under the umbrella Cognitive school of Psychology. The main focus of CBT is to address and work with dysfunctional emotions and behaviors through goal oriented and task-based work. This work is based on the premise that changing negative or mal-adaptive thinking can facilitate changes in behavior.  CBT, like RE&CBT, is a directive therapy too (directive means when the therapist can actively encourage the clients to work toward change & helps develop active responsibility taking for change) and has been shown to be beneficial in working with the same range of presenting concerns as seen in RE&CBT.

Client-Centered Therapy/ Person-Centered Therapy (PCT) or Rogerian Therapy: This approach is mainly focused on building the therapeutic relationship with the client by providing an environment and an opportunity to develop a sense of self. In this approach the counselor will not give you tasks to do, or direct you in any way, the emphasis is on talking through feelings and experiences in order to gain clarity and insight into what it is that has brought the client into therapy. PCT, is a non-directive therapy approach and has been beneficial with clients with various concerns such as Low self-esteem, Relationship issues, Depression, Body-image issues, Self Esteem concerns and many more.

Behavior Therapy:  Behavior therapy works predominantly by changing maladaptive behaviors and correcting them. These could be anything from substance addictions to obsessions and violent outbursts. The major aim of the therapy is to get rid of the unwanted feelings or activities in order to promote healthy behavior. Behavior Therapy, is a directive therapy approach and is commonly used with children by means of behavior modification techniques, token economy, role modeling and many more to unlearn and relearn specific behaviors.

Gestalt Therapy: This is a directive type of counseling, which focuses on patterns of thought, feeling and activity. It encourages people to have an active awareness of their present situation and being present to their emotions. A key part of Gestalt counseling is the dramatization or acting out of important conflicts in a person’s life. This could involve using two or more chairs in some instances, for example, so that they can physically take up different positions to represent different aspects of themselves.

Solution Focused Therapy (SFT): A structured therapy, usually carried out over three to six sessions. Unlike most other therapies, therapist and client usually spend little time on details and causes of the problem. The client is helped to define their own goals and therapy focuses on finding the best way towards the goals in the briefest time possible. It helps the client to recognize their own strengths, resources and abilities, to focus on what is getting better and to build on it. SFT has been beneficial with students or working professionals with academic, career and work related concerns, also has been shown benefits for people who have time management concerns, work life balance concerns and relationship concerns.

Besides the ones above, there’s also the more traditional school of Psychology with Psychoanalysis, later Neo-Freudian schools, Psychodynamic approaches and so on, post modern therapy styles too.

No matter which therapy you go for, they are all aimed at alleviation of disturbances. We hope this article can help you take the first few steps! For any queries, please feel free to reach out to us!

Written by: Reshma Ashar, Clinical Psychologist.