Top 10 Counseling Approaches for Therapists to Consider

Counseling approaches are a dime a dozen. If you have your mental health practice, you already know that sometimes it takes a long time to find the right therapy fit for a patient. As people, our methods for healing based on specific trauma are different. Things that also come into factor are a person's socioeconomic, religious, cultural, academic standing. This is not to say that therapy isn't for everyone. However, sometimes the right fit does not come very quickly.

BlogSelf DevelopmentTop 10 Counseling Approaches for Therapists to Consider

Counseling approaches are a dime a dozen. If you have your mental health practice, you already know that sometimes it takes a long time to find the right therapy fit for a patient. As people, our methods for healing based on specific trauma are different. Things that also come into factor are a person's socioeconomic, religious, cultural, academic standing. This is not to say that therapy isn't for everyone. However, sometimes the right fit does not come very quickly. 

Hence, there is good reason to practice different kinds of counseling, as you may not know which one clicks with the patient. This can get difficult to manage and may become strenuous for counselors. But worry not, since this article is here to list all the best types of counseling approaches and how you can get the most benefit out of them regarding your patient's progress. With these ten approaches, we will also discuss what role journaling can play in each of them as a complementary addition to treatment. 

Here are the top ten counseling approaches for councilors to consider: 

1. Behavior Therapy

Based on theories from Behaviorism, Behavior Therapy involves learning about and controlling one's response to stimuli from the environment. As human beings, we learn our behaviors through a system of reward and punishment. So much so that the human brain is also involved with its risk and pleasure centers. 

Through this therapy, one can help patients improve their lives by learning behaviors that bring about positive outcomes and un-learning behaviors with high risk or adverse effects. In its initial stages of research, BA has promising results in people suffering from depression. 

Behavioral methods are preferred more than cognitive ones, as psychotherapists find behavior easier to control than thoughts. In BA, you teach your patient to note down, observe and identify damaging behaviors. You work with them to provide tools for managing their response to triggering stimuli. 

Behavior Therapy works best when you as a therapist keep close track of a person's progress - their changing behaviors. It is also essential to tailor the treatment according to their attitude and beliefs. It is also helpful if your patient keeps a diary or daily online journal to list said behaviors when they identify them. If the treatment goes well, they'll notice that they will have a list of more healthy behaviors than toxic ones. 

2. Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis or psychodynamic theory, one of the oldest theories still practiced today— was started by the father of psychology, Sigmund Freud. It is one of the earliest approaches to understanding the human psyche and behavior. This analysis goes deep into the heart of our memories, actions, feelings, and emotions. 

Sigmund Freud maintained that who we are as people in the present time is a deep reflection of past years of experience. Our former years end up shaping the latter. This form of therapy incorporates data from the patient to analyze current and future behavioral patterns. It is also used to recognize the forces that drive behavior. 

People always vary of having themselves "psychoanalyzed." However, when this therapy is put to proper use and done with dedication, it can help a person understand a lot of trauma. We are the sum of our experiences. It is essential to shedding light on them to understand their significance. As a therapist, you can begin by keeping extensive sessions with your patients as they talk openly about anything they want. This may include memories, experiences, people they know, how they're feeling, etc. You can gather data from there and make connections for experiences and behavior. This will give you a map of the patient's mind, and from there, you can focus on experiences that have cause trauma. This form of therapy is usually extensive and takes a long time since you understand the person as a whole, not necessarily focusing on one form of trauma. 

Your patient, all the while, can keep a journal where they may write down thoughts and memories they need to share with you. Writing them down and saying them aloud can bring about two separate forms of responses in a person. It is essential to explore both. 

3. Cognitive Therapy

Understanding how particular modes of thinking can lead to negative beliefs that can affect a person's behavior is at the heart of Cognitive therapy (CT). Cognitive Psychology finds its basis in mental processes, motivation, logical reasoning, positive and negative thoughts, etc. Unlike behaviorism, it focuses on internal processes and changing one's thoughts before actions come into play. 

CT is a talking therapy that focuses on mutual trust between the therapist and the patient. Although CT poses a low risk, it may cause discomfort for your patients as they confront their unpleasant feelings. This is why proceeding at a slower pace and following a plan will assist them in healing more quickly. 

Encourage your patients to realize when they are in a difficult position. Assist them in detecting the behavioral patterns that occur in such circumstances. Once you've identified the triggers, ask your patients how they feel about the associated feelings and concepts. They need to keep track of their ideas, which is simple to do with the help of a daily online journal. CT has been effective for many mental health disorders. 

4. Humanistic Therapy 

This is client-centered therapy, where it can be said that success lies at the hands of the patient. This does not mean that they won't require much help. It simply means that everything a person needs to achieve in life is already within them. It is only a matter of locating and unlocking those capabilities. 

Client-centered, Gestalt and existential therapies are examples of humanistic theories. Carl Rogers founded Client-centered therapy, and it is based on the concept that clients have control over their own lives. All therapists need to do, he believes, is exhibit genuine concern and attention. Gestalt therapy is more concerned with what is happening in the present moment than what is said in treatment. Existential therapists focus on free choice, self-determination, and responsibility to help clients find meaning in life.

The most important thing a therapist can do during this therapy is to be genuine. If this therapy is to work, then the therapist must be wholly invested. They need to practice empathy, concern, understanding, and patience. Another thing that they can do for their patient is to recommend writing down positive affirmations in a daily journal. Using a journal as a witness to their growth to confidence and recovery can do wonders. They can see firsthand how far they have come each day. 

5. Mindfulness Therapy 

The client in Mindfulness-Based Therapy pays attention to their feelings and thoughts in the present moment without judging them. It is an open-minded and receptive style of responding to concepts that follow Buddhist teachings.

Mindfulness-Based counseling is a growing trend that aims to help clients relax while removing negative or stressful judgments. This strategy assists individuals in learning how to cope with emotional pressures. Your patient will notice how they feel, think, and why they're doing what they're doing without passing judgment. They can determine how to continue after seeing and embracing these elements. They respond to life rather than reacting to it.

Their ability to respond will make life easier for them. They'll soon discover items in their lives that no longer serve them, or they'll notice that they have been exacerbating the situation altogether. Your patient can then rid their thoughts of clutter and live a more purposeful existence.

Keeping a journal, whether it's handwritten or online, is another habit that promotes awareness. Journaling assists the writer in identifying existing ideas and feelings. It gives them a mental map of their thoughts and feelings. After expressing and accepting them on paper, the writer can select those emotions and thoughts.

6. Creative Therapy

To treat emotional and mental health issues, Creative Therapy employs art-based activities such as music and dance. It uses art forms such as dancing, sketching, or music. People suffering from various mental, emotional, and physical disorders can benefit from creative therapy, trained therapists to administer. Creativity is something any human being can master, no matter how young or old.

Creative therapy does not necessitate any artistic ability on the part of the client. Helping a person release their thoughts and feelings via artistic expression is a part of creative therapy. People who have trouble verbally expressing their feelings may benefit from this innovative treatment for these reasons.

Once your patient has indulged in their creative side, they can discuss their choices with their therapist. Talking to your patient about their art (subjective) can help them process why they made it in the first place. Creativity helps us bring out our unwanted emotions. The emotions are too overwhelming. Hence the best way to process them is to go through them.

This is the best type of therapy where your patient can use a journal. Drawing, writing, cutting stuff, and pasting from other sources - everything and more can be done on a journal. The best part is that this journal is private; hence, your patient needs not share it with anyone else. 

7. Reality Therapy 

Reality therapy is a type of psychotherapy that investigates ideas concerning the social context of human action. Reality therapy is cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy that focuses on improving current situations and relationships while avoiding discussions about the past.

Reality therapy, predicated on the ideas of choice theory and created by Dr. William Glasser in 1965, has become a recognized therapy method. It proposes that all human problems arise when one or more of five basic psychological needs are not addressed and that a person can only manage their conduct. These needs are:

  1. A sense of winning, attaining, or self-worth is referred to as power.
  2. Love and belonging: to a family, a community, or other people you care about.
  3. Independence, personal space, and autonomy are all examples of freedom.
  4. To achieve a sense of satisfaction, happiness, and pleasure.
  5. Shelter, food, and sexual gratification are all basic survival needs.

Glasser believed that when someone decides to modify their conduct rather than change others, they are more likely to succeed. We can even take note of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs here. 

A positive thing you can suggest here to your patient is to keep a journal and write down their lives in the perspective of these five needs. You can give them different exercises to try and understand where they are in terms of power, love, freedom, happiness, and plain old survival. What do they think they need to do to achieve any one of these, etc. 

8. Systemic Therapy

The influence of numerous patterns across systems, such as family, school, or work, on our behaviors and psychological difficulties, is examined in systemic therapy. The goal of a systemic approach is to concentrate on the system rather than the problem at hand.

Systemic therapy and family counseling work effectively, identifying dysfunctional communication patterns and diverse behaviors among family members. Family members work with their therapist to identify problems and establish better reactions, roles, interactions, and overall dynamics. This therapy focuses mainly on the relationship dynamics of a person and the people they are close with or interact with daily. It can be great for identifying toxic traits that either your client or their relation may possess. 

Journaling through systemic therapy can help the patient and, even more so, help you as the therapist. Journaling is a great way to let out frustration and write down your troubles. By recommending your patients do this before each session, they can bring to the discussion what is essential instead of petty squabbles. It can give them a clear mind and hopefully a more constructive approach to their criticism. 

9. Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Even though Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a part of CBT, we will discuss it separately due to its promising results on treatment for depression. Personality problems, for example, might cause a person's mood or actions to become unstable. They may find it difficult to control their emotions and trauma. It leads to high-risk conduct, erratic and impulsive behavior, and a tainted self-image. 

In light of this, DBT can help by allowing the patient to tolerate two contradictory streams of thought. Patients who receive DBT treatment can accept their circumstances and make progress toward recovery. Despite years of being told otherwise, DBT enables patients to take a new perspective on life.

DBT is a high-intensity kind of therapy that addresses a wide range of traumas. As a result, it is not for the faint of heart. You will need to ask challenging questions that may provoke your patient at some point throughout treatment. Similarly, your patient may express feelings and emotions, in which case you must guide them appropriately. DBT, when done correctly, is a tremendous source of healing that may make both the therapist's and the patient's lives simpler. DBT necessitates knowledge and training. As a result, as a therapist, you must be well-versed in this technique.

DBT involves four stages of treatment: 

  1. Stabilization is the primary goal of Stage 1. Suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and addiction are issues that people in therapy may be coping with. They frequently describe themselves as being at an all-time low in their lives.
  2. Stage 2's purpose is for persons in treatment to feel their emotional discomfort rather than suppressing or burying it.
  3. Stage 3 focuses on maintaining progress and setting appropriate goals to improve quality of life.
  4. Therapists assist clients in progressing to the next step of their lives during this time. People can use therapy to improve their talents or work toward spiritual fulfillment.

Journaling, like all CBT psychotherapies, can be recommended to patients in conjunction with DBT. DBT and journaling both promote mindfulness. The act of keeping a journal and writing in it daily has helped people with anxiety disorders, depression, and PTSD, and it has implications here as well. It assists you in staying focused and on track. It's therapeutic to write down your thoughts and make sense of them, and it helps you better regulate your emotions.

In terms of DBT, you can ask your patients to keep a journal of their daily skill-learning exercises. They can jot down how they feel, what went wrong, and what they notice as they develop.

10. Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy was developed in the early 1900s by behaviorists such as Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov's work on classical conditioning made him renowned. Mary Cover Jones, known as the "mother of behavior therapy," employed conditioning techniques to change people's responses to their phobias in 1920. Desensitization therapy and exposure therapy were developed as a result of this research. Exposure therapy employs various strategies, each with varied intensity and application depending on the addressed mental health issue.

People anxious due to fear, phobia, or traumatic memory will often avoid anything that reminds them of it. This avoidance provides brief respite, but it perpetuates the worry and avoidance behavior. In other circumstances, avoiding the dreaded entity might make matters worse by giving it more strength. Exposure therapy is a technique for carefully exposing a person to various facets of a fear they have attributed to an object or scenario to diminish the irrational sentiments.

There are a variety of approaches to using exposure therapy to treat a patient. It is usually up to you as a therapist to ensure that the optimum strategy is taken considering the severity of your patient's problem. You can even combine two or three ways, starting with the one that causes minor discomfort.

The various ways are as follows:


A person is advised to mentally confront a fear or incident by envisioning it in their brain in this type of exposure.

In vivo:

When using this type of exposure, a person is exposed to real-life things and conditions.

Virtual Reality:

This combines imaginal and in vivo exposure characteristics to put a person in natural settings but aren't.


This focuses on eliciting physical responses associated with panic or anxiety.

With this form of therapy, it can be beneficial for patients to document their experiences. An excellent way to do that is by keeping an online journal. With the journal, they can wholly express their feelings and emotions while simulating those triggering events. 

All ten of these approaches can treat a myriad of disorders such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, etc. The client's symptoms, personality features, concurrent conditions, family dynamics, preferred communication with the therapist, and treatment goals all influence the therapy choice.

Clinicians share the goal of planning and allocating a patient to a treatment that maximizes gains while meeting the patient's needs. Choosing the best treatment for each patient, on the other hand, can be a hazy and unreliable endeavor, influenced by the clinician's prejudices and theoretical background, with unknown or unmeasured outcomes. There are several methods for identifying and selecting a therapy regimen.

Systematic Treatment Selection (STS) is based on a lengthy history of psychotherapy research undertaken in North and South America and Europe. STS tries to find characteristics and approaches that may be applied across cultures and individuals and those specific to each treatment or culture. Hence, it is good to be well versed in these methods as well as a therapist.

It's comforting to know that there is no such thing as "the best" psychotherapy. One factor to consider when selecting a style of psychotherapy is whether it has been proven to be beneficial. 

There are, however, specific other considerations. The relationship that can develop between the patient and the therapist in the first few sessions is crucial, regardless of the style of psychotherapy. If an "alliance" forms, this positive bond will be critical to the therapy's effectiveness.


Friday, October 1, 2021