Choosing a Counsellor

It is important that a client feels comfortable and safe with their counsellor. All counsellors understand this and encourage clients to select somebody appropriate. This may mean speaking to or visiting more than one therapist initially before beginning counselling. The length of time a client stays in counselling varies with each person, depending on their needs and expectations. Deep-rooted problems may require long term work - an hour a week for several months - while specific issues can sometimes be addressed in a few sessions.

All counsellors can be approached by telephone or email and will be happy to answer any questions about their practice or their theoretical base.

There are many different models of counselling and psychotherapy which are usually referred to as talking therapies. Although counsellors' style and theoretical approach may differ, they share core empathic values and, in general, the theoretical approach is less important than the quality of the counsellor. The final judge of whether a counsellor is right for you can only be yourself and you must trust your own instincts. Talk to a counsellor and don't be afraid to ask questions or request more information. Then ask yourself if you would feel comfortable telling this person intimate details of your life, do you feel safe with them, do you like their manner towards you and could you be completely open with them?

Sussex Counselling's membership includes practitioners of all the major theoretical approaches. In order to help users of the directory identify these, we have defined the most common approaches below.

Behavioural Therapy

is based on the belief that behaviour is learnt in response to past experience and can be unlearnt, or reconditioned, without analysing the past to find the reason for the behaviour.

Cognitive Therapy

uses the power of the mind to influence behaviour. It is based on the theory that previous experiences can adversely affect self-perception so will condition attitude, emotions and ability to deal with certain situations. It works by helping the client to identify, question and change self-denigrating thoughts, thus altering habitual responses and behaviour.

Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT)

combines cognitive therapy and exploratory psychotherapy, and encourages clients to draw on their own resources to develop the skills to change destructive patterns of behaviour. Negative ways of thinking are explored, and treatment is structured and directive.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

combines cognitive and behavioural techniques. Clients are taught ways to change thoughts and expectations and relaxation techniques may be used.

Existential

The existential approach is first and foremost philosophical.  It is concerned with the understanding of people's position in the world and with the clarification of what it means to them to be alive.  It is committed to exploring these questions with a receptive and open-minded attitude, rather than a dogmatic one. Existential thinkers seek to avoid restrictive models that categorise or label people.  

EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing involves stimulation of either lobe of the brain by using eye movements which it is believed replicates what appears to happen in REM sleep, allowing a natural processing of traumatic events or disturbing memories to take place. It is particularly useful for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Gestalt

is derived from the German for "organised whole" and is based on the belief that the human response to experiences is summed up in a person's thoughts, feelings and actions. The client gains self-awareness by analysing behaviour and body language and giving expression to repressed feelings. Treatment often includes acting out scenarios and dream recall.

Humanistic

is less technique-based than other orientations and strives to provide people with a deeper understanding of who they are and what they feel, enouraging self-awareness and self-realisation, including awareness of experience itself, of emotional reactions, interactions with others and the possibilities of creating personal choices. The humanistic approach seeks to avoid restrictive models that categorise or label people. It provides respectful, non-judgemental support so that someone can freely explore their past, present and future experiences, as well as concentrate on a specific problem or issue. A humanistic approach may incorporate other approaches such as Existential, Gestalt, TA, Person-Centred.

Integrative or Eclectic

is when several distinct models of counselling and psychotherapy are used together in a converging way rather than separately. Many counsellors use one core theoretical model of counselling but draw on techniques and styles from other approaches when appropriate.

Person-Centred 

is based on the assumption that an individual (client) seeking help in the resolution of a problem can enter into a relationship with another individual (counsellor) who is sufficiently accepting and permissive to allow the client to freely express emotions. This will enable the client to come to terms with negative feelings which may have caused emotional problems, and develop inner resources.

Psychodynamic 

stresses the importance of the unconscious and past experience in determining current behaviour. The client is encouraged to talk about childhood relationships with parents and other significant people and the therapist focuses on the client/therapist relationship (the dynamics). The psychodynamic approach is derived from psychoanalysis but usually provides a quicker solution to emotional problems.

Psychosynthesis & Transpersonal

is sometimes described as "psychology of the soul" and aims to integrate or synthesise the level of consciousness at which thoughts and emotions are experienced with a higher, spiritual level of consciousness. Painting, movement and other techniques can be used to recognise and value different facets of the personality. It can be useful for people seeking a more spiritually oriented vision of themselves.

Reality Therapy

is a practical method of helping people take better control of their lives. It assists people in identifying what they want and what they need and then in evaluating whether they can realistically attain what they want. It helps them examine their own behaviors and evaluate them with clear criteria.

This is followed by positive planning designed to help control their lives as well as fulfill their realistic wants and needs. The result is added strength, increased self-confidence better human relationships, and a personal plan for a more effective life. Reality therapy provides people with a self-help tool to use daily to copy with adversity to grow personally, and to gain more effective control of their lives. Reality therapy is based on choice theory, a systematic explanation of how the human mind works. According to choice theory, human beings choose many of their behaviors in order to satisfy innate human needs: self-preservation or survival, belonging and love, achievement or power or inner-control, freedom or independence, and fun or enjoyment.

WDEP, a pedagogical tool, summarises reality therapy and provides a memory peg for retaining, applying and implementing the principles of reality therapy and its theoretical base, choice theory.

Transactional Analysis (TA)

is based on the belief that everyone has a 'child', 'adult' and 'parent' self within them and, within each social interaction, one self predominates. By recognising these roles, a client can choose which one to adopt and so change behaviour. This form of therapy has produced the term "inner child" used to describe unfulfilled needs from childhood.