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A Guide to Types of Counseling

Katelyn Hagerty

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 8/16/2021

Working on your mental health and getting it to a place where you’re feeling your best can be a process. 

Medication can help improve your mood, meditating can help you feel more relaxed and calm in your daily activities, while journaling can help to keep track of the progress you’ve made for your well-being.

However, one of the most trusted means of maintaining your mental health is through talk therapy. 

In particular, counseling is an effective way to discuss emotional or other challenges that may be affecting your headspace. 

Whether it’s difficulty with mental health issues like depression or anxiety, managing a severe condition like post-traumatic stress disorder or getting through difficult situations like divorce or the loss of a loved one, mental health counselors can help provide clarity and guidance for your day-to-day activities and well-being.

To understand how counseling can impact your mental health and well-being, let’s look at the different types, as well as the different benefits you stand to gain from meeting with professional counselors.

Approaches to Counseling

Despite how well you or your friends may dole out advice, this doesn’t automatically count you as a counselor. 

A number of licensing requirements — including a bachelor’s and graduate degree in psychology — are necessary to qualify as a counselor. A doctoral degree may also sometimes be required, as well as any other specialized degree in counseling to support their instruction.

From this training, counselors learn different therapeutic techniques to manage the mental health of their patients. These techniques include:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

This technique examines patterns of behavior in an attempt to understand emotional, social or behavioral problems. 

Through cognitive behavior therapy, patients learn to identify negative ways of thinking or belief systems. 

This treatment helps patients challenge these patterns, while also helping swap them out for more realistic and positive behaviors.

Systemic Therapy

Individuals do not exist in isolation, and will typically go about their lives as a part of a unit such as a family, couple, workforce, etc. 

Systemic therapy looks to understand the individual as a part of that unit, to make sense of relationships and patterns of behavior with others.

The underlying idea is to pick out how members within the units communicate based on the roles they believe they hold, and then address those behaviors.

Humanistic Therapy

This approach considers human beings to be rational creatures. 

It emphasizes their ability to make right choices when faced with the opportunity to, while helping patients reach their full potential in life.

Psychodynamic Counseling

This approach to counseling looks to answer the “why?” with regard to problematic patterns of behavior. 

To do this, it digs deep into individuals to piece together the unconscious reasons for their actions. 

The goal, of course, is to help patients understand themselves better and make more positive decisions.

Holistic Counseling

This form of talk therapy takes bits and pieces of different approaches to produce a system that works most suitably for the needs of every individual person. 

It is a careful blend of counseling approaches, tailored to produce positive results.

online counseling

the best way to try counseling

Types of Counseling

Counseling requires the collaborative efforts of counselor and patient to get through any emotional challenges, or other disturbances in the latter’s life. 

Because this treatment requires joint effort, it’s important to engage in a form of therapy that matches the issue it’s treating.

A career in counseling revolves around helping patients identify the potential causes of a wide range of emotional strain, with the ultimate goal of helping them find manageable solutions to these crises. 

To achieve these goals, a counselor may be everything from a social worker to a school counselor, and will likely specialize in one of the following:

Individual Counseling

This form of therapy provides necessary support during trying times. 

If you’re struggling with problematic behaviors like a bad temper; anxiety; difficulties at home, work or school or are otherwise going through a particular rough patch in life, participating in one-on-one counseling sessions could provide important tips for overcoming these setbacks.

Family Counseling

Receiving family counseling may be with the aim of managing a substantial change in the family such as a loss, the addition of new family members or divorce. 

Speaking with a counselor about challenges in the family unit may also help provide new ways of improving communication and moving the ball forward.

Couples Counseling

Even the strongest couples get stuck. If you’ve been in a long-term relationship for some time and you and your partner are finding it difficult to connect or communicate effectively with one another, speaking to a counselor together may help improve your relationship. 

A couples counselor can help navigate the hard-to-speak about topics that have held up relations with your partner. 

That can be everything from spending too much time at work, other outside obligations or even instances of infidelity — physical or emotional.

This form of counseling can help couples mark out their expectations for their time together, and possible goals to achieve as a team.

Group Counseling

Group counseling is one of the best ways to realize how much company you have in whatever challenge you may be facing. 

Speaking with a number of people with similar challenges as you, under the guidance of a professional counselor or social worker, can help shed light on the struggles of — and possible solutions to — said issues. 

This can be anything from emotional disorders such as self-esteem challenges, anger management, etc.

Substance Abuse Counseling

It probably doesn’t need saying, but substance abuse can have dangerous effects on your health and quality of life. 

If you’re struggling with the disease of addiction, rehabilitation counselors can help identify why you engage in these behaviors, highlight how drug and alcohol use may have changed your attitude towards life or others and it may also teach the correct ways to handle urges and triggers that encourage drug usage.

Education and Career Counseling

Anyone who has gone through the four walls of a school knows that academics can be rigorous. 

A school counselor or social worker may help provide supportive insight into managing the stress of school life, correct poor studying habits and offer coping tips to deal with distractions that can come up within the environment

This can assist with boosting academic performance and academic progress.

Education counseling may also extend to career counseling, which can help students select suitable career paths to realize their potential.

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it’s never been easier to talk to a psychiatry provider about treatments

Understanding The Types of Counseling

One of the most trusted hacks for improving mental, emotional and behavioral traits is through regular engagement in therapy.

Beyond enhancing emotional health and behaviors, counseling is also useful for managing serious conditions like depression and anxiety.

To produce the best results from counseling or online counseling, a certified counselor may choose from a host of approaches to bring about the desired outcomes. 

These approaches may be anything from cognitive behavior therapies, to humanistic therapy, and holistic forms of counseling.

Counseling is open to different groups of people, as individuals, groups, couples and family members can speak with counselors to straighten out challenges or improve interactions.

13 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Nccih.nih.gov (n.d) Meditation: In Depth. Retrieved from: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth
  2. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Counseling Psychology. https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/counseling
  3. Apa.org (2014) A career in clinical or counseling psychology. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/education-career/guide/subfields/clinical/education-training
  4. Apa.org (2009) Different approaches to psychotherapy. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/topics/psychotherapy/approaches
  5. Locher, C., Meier, S., & Gaab, J. (2019). Psychotherapy: A World of Meanings. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 460. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6448000/
  6. Counseling.org (n.d) What is professional counseling? Retrieved from: https://www.counseling.org/aca-community/learn-about-counseling/what-is-counseling
  7. Medlineplus.gov (n.d) Drug use and addiction. Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/druguseandaddiction.html
  8. American School Counselor Association. (n.d.). The Role of the School Counselor. https://www.schoolcounselor.org/getmedia/ee8b2e1b-d021-4575-982c-c84402cb2cd2/Role-Statement.pdf
  9. Psychiatry.org (n.d) What is psychotherapy. Retrieved from: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/psychotherapy#
  10. Nimh.nih.gov (n.d) Psychotherapies. Retrieved from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/psychotherapies/#

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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