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Types of Therapy and Counselling

by edinburghtherapyservice
19 minutes read

Counselling and psychotherapy encompass a variety of modalities and approaches. Therapists may specialise in a particular method or incorporate techniques from diverse approaches based on their assessment of what would benefit the client. Nonetheless, it is the therapeutic process and the quality of the relationship with your therapist that often takes precedence over the specific approach employed.

Why different types of talking therapy?

The diversity in types of counselling and therapy stems from an acknowledgement of the unique nature of individuals. Each person brings a distinct set of experiences, challenges, and preferences to the therapeutic space, necessitating a varied toolkit for counsellors. Different therapeutic approaches address various aspects of well-being, such as cognitive patterns, emotional experiences, interpersonal relationships, and personal growth. 

There are different types of counselling because there are various theoretical foundations, shaping different methods and strategies. For example, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) draws from the cognitive and behavioural model, while psychodynamic therapy is rooted in psychoanalytic theories. This diversity caters to the multifaceted aspects of human experience, allowing therapists to tailor their methods to the specific needs and goals of their clients.

Preferences play a crucial role in the therapeutic journey. Some people may gravitate towards a structured and goal-oriented approach, as seen in CBT, while others might find resonance in a more exploratory and insight-oriented method, such as humanistic therapy.  

Overall, in the ever-evolving field of psychology, therapists continually develop and innovate. Ongoing research and the emergence of new therapeutic approaches contribute to the dynamism of the field, enabling therapists to integrate innovative techniques that enhance the effectiveness of their practice.

Types of therapy (A-Z)


Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a third-wave therapy approach that helps people accept their thoughts and feelings while committing to actions aligned with their values. ACT emphasises psychological flexibility, encouraging clients to be open to experiences and willing to pursue meaningful goals. Rather than trying to control or eliminate unwanted thoughts and emotions, ACT teaches clients to observe and accept them without judgement. The goal is to enhance overall well-being by developing a greater sense of purpose and promoting values-based living.


Behavioural therapy 

Behavioural therapy is a therapeutic approach that focuses on observable behaviours and aims to modify maladaptive patterns through learning principles. Rooted in behaviourism, this approach is based on the belief that behaviours are learned responses to environmental stimuli and can be changed through conditioning. In behavioural therapy, therapists work with clients to identify specific behaviours that are problematic and collaboratively develop strategies to change them. The emphasis is on the present and the practical application of techniques to bring about behavioural change. 


Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT)

Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) is a time-limited psychotherapeutic approach that integrates principles from cognitive therapy and psychoanalytic traditions. CAT focuses on exploring how a person’s patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving developed in their early life and how these patterns may be influencing their present experiences. It often involves the use of diagrams, written exercises, and the creation of personalised tools to enhance self-awareness. The therapy is structured and goal-oriented, typically conducted over a fixed number of sessions, making it a brief and focused intervention.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a practical and goal-oriented therapeutic approach that addresses the interconnection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. This evidence-based method is grounded in the idea that one’s beliefs and perceptions influence emotions and actions. In CBT, clients work collaboratively with the therapist to identify and challenge negative thought patterns and replace them with more constructive ones. The focus is on developing practical strategies to change behaviour and manage emotions. CBT is often structured, time-limited, and results-focused, making it effective for various mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and stress.

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT)

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) is another third-wave therapeutic approach developed by psychologist Paul Gilbert that focuses on cultivating self-compassion and kindness. CFT recognizes the importance of understanding and alleviating human suffering through the development of a compassionate mindset. This therapy often involves exploring and addressing the inner critic, promoting self-soothing techniques, and building a sense of inner warmth and understanding. CFT integrates elements from cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and draws inspiration from evolutionary psychology. It is particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with shame, self-criticism, and low self-esteem, fostering emotional healing and a more compassionate relationship with oneself and others.


Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a therapeutic approach developed by Marsha M. Linehan, primarily designed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, it has also been found effective for other conditions. DBT combines cognitive-behavioural techniques with mindfulness strategies. It emphasises the dialectical balance between acceptance and change. DBT includes skills training in areas such as emotional regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and mindfulness. The therapy aims to help individuals develop healthier coping mechanisms, manage intense emotions, and build fulfilling interpersonal relationships. It recognizes the dialectic between accepting oneself as they are while also working towards positive change. 


Emotionally focused therapy (EFT)

Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) is a structured and short-term approach to couples therapy. It focuses on the emotional bonds between partners, aiming to help them create and strengthen secure attachment. EFT sees relationship distress as rooted in unmet attachment needs and aims to reshape patterns of interaction. In EFT, therapists guide couples through a process of recognizing and expressing their emotions, fostering empathy and understanding between partners. The goal is to create a more secure emotional connection and improve communication. 

Existential therapy

Existential therapy is an approach that focuses on exploring the fundamental aspects of human existence, such as freedom, responsibility, meaning, and the search for purpose. Rooted in existential philosophy, this therapeutic approach doesn’t adhere to a specific set of techniques but rather encourages individuals to confront and examine their own existence. Existentialist therapists engage clients in discussions about the nature of life, choices, and the inherent challenges of being human. The emphasis is on personal responsibility and the exploration of one’s values and beliefs. This therapy aims to help individuals gain insight into their unique experience of existence and make choices that align with their authentic selves.

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)​

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic approach designed to help people process and alleviate distressing memories and trauma. During EMDR sessions, clients recall distressing memories while the therapist directs bilateral stimulation, typically in the form of rapid eye movements. This process is thought to help the brain reprocess traumatic memories, reducing their emotional intensity. It has been found effective in treating conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Family therapy or systemic therapy

Family therapy, also known as systemic therapy, is an approach that involves working with people and their families to address issues within the family system. Rather than focusing solely on the person, family therapy views problems as patterns of interaction that involve the entire family. The therapist helps family members explore and understand the dynamics, communication styles, and roles within the family. Family therapy aims to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and enhance overall functioning. It may involve various techniques, such as systemic interventions, communication skills training, and genograms (family tree diagrams). The goal is to create positive change by fostering healthier relationships and improving the family’s ability to navigate challenges together. 


Gestalt therapy

Gestalt therapy is an experiential and holistic approach that emphasises the present moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, and actions. Developed by Fritz Perls, this therapeutic method focuses on the integration of fragmented aspects of the self to promote personal growth and self-discovery. In gestalt therapy, the emphasis is on the “here and now,” with clients encouraged to explore their immediate experience rather than just talking about it. Techniques may include role-playing, guided imagery, and other experiential exercises to bring attention to unresolved issues and enhance self-awareness. The therapist and client work collaboratively to explore patterns, increase self-acceptance, and foster a greater understanding of the client’s ongoing experience.


Humanistic therapy

Humanistic therapy is an approach that focuses on the individual’s self-awareness and personal growth. Rooted in the belief that people inherently strive for self-actualization, humanistic therapy emphasises the importance of the present moment and the client’s subjective experience. This therapeutic approach, often associated with figures like Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, aims to create a supportive and non-judgmental environment where clients can explore their feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. The therapist fosters empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard to help clients gain insight into themselves and work towards realising their full potential.


Integrative counselling

Integrative counselling is an approach that combines elements from various therapeutic modalities and theories. Therapists who practise integrative counselling draw on different techniques and strategies from diverse therapeutic approaches based on the unique needs of the client. This flexible and adaptable method aims to provide a comprehensive and personalised approach to address a wide range of psychological issues. The integration of various therapeutic perspectives allows therapists to tailor their interventions to better suit the individual preferences and challenges of each client.

Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a type of therapy that focuses on improving interpersonal relationships and addressing interpersonal issues. It is based on the premise that our relationships with others significantly impact our emotional well-being. IPT is time-limited and goal-oriented. The main goal is to help individuals identify and address specific problems in their relationships that may contribute to emotional distress. It typically involves exploring communication patterns, role expectations, and conflicts within relationships.


Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is also a third-wave CBT modality that combines principles of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) with mindfulness practices. It was originally developed to help individuals who struggle with recurring episodes of depression. MBCT teaches clients to become more aware of their thoughts and feelings without judgement, cultivating a non-reactive awareness of the present moment. The therapy involves mindfulness meditation exercises and cognitive strategies to interrupt the automatic thought patterns that may contribute to distressing emotional states. 


Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an approach that explores the relationships between neurological processes, language, and behavioural patterns that have been learned through experience. NLP involves examining how individuals structure their subjective experiences and how these patterns can be modified to achieve specific goals. It incorporates techniques such as modelling successful behaviours, exploring language patterns, and utilising visualisation to enhance communication skills, personal development, and behavioural change. 


Person-centred therapy

Person-centred therapy, developed by Carl Rogers, is a humanistic approach to counselling and psychotherapy. This therapeutic method is centred on creating a supportive and non-judgmental environment where clients can explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The key tenets include unconditional positive regard, empathy, and congruence. The therapist provides a safe space for clients to express themselves without judgement and assists them in gaining insight and self-awareness. The focus is on the client’s subjective experience and their inherent capacity for personal growth and self-direction.

Psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is an in-depth and insight-oriented therapeutic approach that explores the influence of unconscious processes on a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Rooted in psychoanalytic traditions, psychodynamic therapy emphasises the role of early experiences in shaping an individual’s personality and current struggles. The therapist and client work together to explore and understand unconscious conflicts, defence mechanisms, and unresolved issues that may contribute to psychological distress. The goal is to bring these unconscious elements into conscious awareness, fostering insight and facilitating personal growth. Psychodynamic therapy often involves open-ended discussions, exploration of emotions, and examination of relational patterns. It can be a longer-term therapy that aims to create lasting changes by addressing deep-seated issues and promoting a better understanding of oneself.


Psychosynthesis is a holistic and transpersonal psychological approach that emphasises the integration of various aspects of the self, including the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions. Psychosynthesis views individuals as having a higher potential that can be realised through the harmonious integration of these aspects. The therapy involves exploring and reconciling different subpersonalities or psychological parts within oneself. Techniques may include guided imagery, meditation, and dialogue to facilitate self-discovery and personal growth. Psychosynthesis aims to help individuals move toward self-realisation, greater self-awareness, and a sense of purpose in life. 


Rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT)

Rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) is a cognitive-behavioural therapeutic approach that focuses on identifying and challenging irrational beliefs that contribute to emotional distress and negative behaviours. It aims to help individuals develop more rational and constructive thought patterns, leading to healthier emotional responses and improved well-being. REBT involves actively disputing and changing irrational beliefs to foster positive changes in behaviour and emotions.


Solution-focused therapy (SFT) 

Solution-focused therapy (SFT) is a brief and goal-oriented therapeutic approach that focuses on finding solutions to current problems rather than dwelling extensively on the issues or their origins. In solution-focused therapy, the therapist and client collaboratively identify and amplify existing strengths and resources. The emphasis is on exploring specific, achievable goals and envisioning a future where these goals have been accomplished. The therapist employs questioning techniques to help clients clarify their goals, generate ideas for solutions, and recognize small steps toward positive change. This approach is typically brief, and direct, and can be effective in a relatively short time frame.


Transactional analysis (TA) 

Transactional analysis (TA) is a psychological theory and therapeutic approach that focuses on understanding and improving communication and relationships. TA examines social transactions between individuals and emphasises three ego states: parent, adult, and child. Each represents a different set of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. In therapy, TA is used to explore and reshape patterns of communication and interaction. The goal is to help individuals become aware of their ego states, understand how they affect relationships, and make positive changes. 

Transpersonal therapy

Transpersonal therapy is a holistic approach that goes beyond the individual’s identity, emphasising spiritual and transcendent aspects of human experience. Rooted in the belief that there is a deeper, interconnected dimension of consciousness, transpersonal therapy explores the potential for self-realisation, meaning, and purpose. This therapeutic approach integrates traditional psychological concepts with spiritual and mystical elements. Transpersonal therapy may involve various techniques, such as meditation, visualisation, and exploration of altered states of consciousness. It often encourages individuals to connect with their higher self or explore experiences that go beyond the ego. The goal is to facilitate personal growth, enhance self-awareness, and help individuals tap into their spiritual resources for healing and transformation.

Further reading

Your counsellor in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Therapy Service is a counseling and psychotherapy practice based in Edinburgh. We work with a range of therapeutic approaches, including cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), compassion-focused therapy (CFT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Our services extend beyond the borders of Edinburgh, as we offer online therapy to clients worldwide. Whether you’re seeking therapy in person in Edinburgh or prefer online sessions, we are here to support you. Contact us today!

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The Edinburgh Therapy Service is a psychotherapy and counseling practice based in Edinburgh, Scotland (United Kingdom). We offer therapy both in-person in Edinburgh and online, available in English and Spanish.

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