There are many theoretical approaches to counselling and psychotherapy and this page is a brief explanation of those theories that underpin my practice. If theory isn’t important to you then that is perfectly fine, after all it is the quality of the relationship you have with your therapist, rather than theory, which is often the most important factor in successful therapy.
If, on the other hand, you are interested in theory and you would like to understand more, please get in touch. I offer either a free consultation (20 minutes, online or by telephone) or a more in-depth, face-to-face session (60 minutes, in person or online) which is chargeable.
Person Centred Counselling
Person Centred Counselling places the emphasis on the therapeutic relationship believing that your relationship with your counsellor, in which you are listened to, understood and accepted for the person you are, is enough for healing and growth to take place. It assumes that we each have an innate tendency to grow, find meaning in our lives and connect with ourselves and others a process which Carl Rogers (the founder of Person Centred Counselling) called ‘self actualisation.’ Unlike most other therapeutic approaches, Person Centred counselling doesn’t impose theories on you or label your experiences assuming, instead, that you are a unique individual with unique thoughts, feelings and experiences and that, deep down, you know yourself better than anybody else.
The following quote from Rogers helps to describe how counselling can help:
“When I have been listened to and when I have been heard, I am able to re-perceive my world in a new way and to go on. It is astonishing how elements that seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens, how confusions that seem irremediable turn into relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard. I have deeply appreciated the times that I have experienced this sensitive, empathic, concentrated listening.”
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a more directive form of therapy than the Person Centred approach. The relationship with your counsellor is collaborative and he or she may adopt a more proactive approach towards you and your needs. Your therapist will help you to explore and challenge your thoughts and behaviours and how these shape your experiences of life. In addition, CBT may also explore your deeply held core beliefs from which your thoughts, feelings and behaviours emanate. CBT might involve goal setting, homework and practise.
Mindfulness is a practice which helps us to develop a deeper awareness of our direct experience (thoughts, bodily sensations, feelings and emotions) in the moment without judgement. By paying attention to our experience as it unfolds we can start to relate to it directly, rather than through the thoughts we are having about it, with a greater sense of connectedness and acceptance. Mindfulness can be practised more formally by setting aside some time during the day to meditate for a certain period, as well as being something which can be integrated into our daily lives. Mindfulness and CBT are complimentary and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can be thought of as a development of CBT which deepens and enriches it.
The above theoretical approaches to therapy (Person Centred Counselling, CBT and Mindfulness) focus primarily on a person’s conscious awareness. Jungian psychology, which was founded by Carl Jung (1875-1961) and is also called Analytical Psychology, in addition to the conscious mind, also assumes that there is a much deeper level of the psyche, called the unconscious, existing in all of us which, being more powerful than the conscious level, has a profound impact on our lives. An impact which, because it springs from the unconscious, we are often completely confused by. We might, for example, get angry, anxious, depressed or addicted when there is no obvious reason or we might have developed a pattern of ‘acting out’ with others or sabotaging relationships which, again, might be behaviours about which we have little awareness or control over, in that we don’t know where they come from and how to stop. On a more existential level, we might find that we have become dissatisfied with life and that we have a yearning for something more meaningful or spiritual.
For Jung, these are issues which cannot be remedied by will power or logical reasoning alone and must also be approached by working creatively with the unconscious. This is referred to as ‘depth work’ and, in therapy, this might involve an exploration of your historical relationships, as well as experiences, and how they may have shaped the person you are today. This will include looking at how you relate (unconsciously via projection) to others, as well as your world in general, and what this might say about you. Analytical Psychology will work on your future, as well as your past, uncovering the person that, deep down, you truly are and energising you to live a life which feels more whole and fulfilled. Jung called this process of growth ‘individuation’ which is remarkably similar to Rogers’ theory of ‘self actualisation’ mentioned above. This requires you to be open to and willing to explore those parts of the psyche that are relatively unkown and mysterious. For example, working with dream material as, according to Jung, our dreams are a window into the unconscious and can reveal much about your deeper self. Depth work might also include techniques such as active imagination, working with fantasy material and paying attention to synchronicity (‘meaningful coincidence’).