What are Therapy and Counseling?

Counseling and therapy are best defined as talk- and listening-based methods of addressing psychological and related behavioral issues, including chronic mental illness, crisis management, behavior modification, and developmental needs. Counseling tends to focus on resolving a patient's presenting symptoms, getting them through a crisis situation, and rebuilding or supplementing their personal growth, self-understanding, decision-making and critical thinking skills. Psychotherapy attends to the patient's chronic, subconscious (or unconscious) behavior and personality issues, and affects deep change by addressing their distress patterns and personal psychopathology. Because of these differences, therapy tends to be a more intensive endeavor, with visits multiple times a week for a period of months, while counseling sessions tend to happen once a week or as needed.

In many cases both therapy and counseling proceed without the involvement of medicine or physical techniques, and may be concerned with the effects of the patient's social life and circumstances, spirituality, and personal philosophy on their mental health. Professional psychotherapists and counselors undergo a training process that involves several years of education regarding psychological research methods, theory, and clinical experience, followed by supervised practice, and in many cases personal experience in therapy or counseling as a patient. Depending on the issue or circumstances involved, therapy and counseling may take place on an individual basis, with a group (in the cases of family or forms of mandated therapy), or with a partner (in the case of relationship therapy).

What follows is a list of the different types of therapy and counseling, along with the broader psychological approaches to which they belong:

Psychoanalytic Approaches

  • Freudian psychoanalysis
  • Jungian Analytical psychology
  • Adlerian therapy
  • Kleinian therapy

Cognitive-Behavioral Approaches

  • Behavior therapy
  • Rational Emotive Behavior therapy (REBT)
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Cognitive-Behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Reality therapy
  • Personal Construct therapy
  • Multimodal therapy
  • Lifeskills counseling

Humanistic Approaches

  • Person-Centered counseling
  • Gestalt therapy
  • Existential counseling
  • Transactional Analysis
  • Psychosynthesis counseling
  • Primal integration

Integrative Approaches

  • Cognitive Analytic therapy (CAT)
  • Dialectical Behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Transpersonal therapy

Other Approaches

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
  • Hypnosis
  • Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)
  • Solution Focused therapy
  • Problem Focused counseling
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Therapy and Counseling Resources

Study.com has hundreds of resources related to the mental health treatments of therapy and counseling. Psychology is of course the basis for these disciplines, but those who practice them may seek employment or further training in the educational and cognitive science sectors, open their own private practice, or prefer to help others through or within a larger company or organization. In any case, these college-level courses, practice quizzes, and tutoring services will give any student a boost on their career path as counselor or therapist.

Therapy and Counseling Courses

Counseling and therapy are two related professions with deep links to psychology, education, and behavioral science. There are hundreds of courses available on Study.com that relate to these fields; their instruction will help students reach their goal of becoming a therapist or counselor. These classes cover the many types of mental health counseling and therapy, including cognitive behavioral, ABA, and DBT along with varying formats such as clinical, couples, group, and family, and topics like relationships, marriage, and grief.

Psychology 103: Human Growth and Development

Students interested in therapy and counseling should consider this college-level course on the psychology of human development. Chapters address the various forms of development, including biological, cognitive, intelligence, language, sensory, and social.

Psychology 106: Abnormal Psychology

An important skill for any therapist is the ability to diagnose and treat mental illness. This college class discusses several models of abnormal behavior, the various personality disorders, and methods of treatment, including different therapies and drugs.

Psychology 107: Life Span Developmental Psychology

This college-level course is focused on the psychology of change and growth over the human lifespan, making it ideal for counseling students. Lessons focus on physical and psychosocial development at the stages of infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

Psychology 310: Psychology of Personality

A large part of counseling and therapy is understanding the client; this college class on the psychology of personality is a step towards that. Chapters cover various psychological and psychoanalytic theories of personality and identity, and related research.

Psychology 306: Advanced Abnormal Psychology

This college-level course is ideal for students going into criminal psychology or therapy for those with acute mental illness. Lessons provide detailed studies of the various psychological disorders, their theoretical causes, and how to assess and treat them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between counseling and therapy?

    Put simply, the main difference between counseling and therapy is that counseling tends to deal with presenting symptoms, crises, and personal growth, while therapy tends to deal with a patient's underlying long-standing psychopathology, and personality and behavioral problems that result from it. Counseling often lasts for a shorter period of time than psychotherapy, and patients visit less frequently as well.

  • Why do people go to therapy?

    People go to therapy for many reasons. They may deal with chronic anxiety or depression, suffer from a personality disorder, be experiencing grief from a death, have trouble maintains relationships, or be working onto build a more satisfying marriage.