What are the Different Types of Psychotherapy/Counselling?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
History and underlying theory: This originates from the 1950 with Skinner and Pavlov classical and operant conditioning, behaviours can be explained through positive and negative reinforcements and conditioning.
Later on in the 60s Beck and Ellis added in the role of cognitions which is a fancy way of saying thoughts they proposed that mental health problems are believed to be due to negative view about yourself, the world and the future. Talks about the negative triad.
Ellis came up with the ABC model he believed that it is not the activating negative event (A) that causes negative emotional and behavioural consequences (C), but rather that a person interprets these events unrealistically and therefore has a irrational belief system (B) that helps cause the consequences (C).


Treatment: This type of therapy works on helping clients to change their irrational beliefs by coming up with alternative thoughts. They also use techniques such as behavioural activation which can help with phobias and social anxiety. For example, lets say you were scared of heights you and the therapist would create a hierarchy that would slowly expose you to your most feared scenario. Therefore, the aim is that you slowly become more desensitised to your fear as you realise that there is nothing to fear as nothing bad actually happens.

Cost: In the UK this type of therapy is the most favoured by the NHS, therefore you can usually get this for free with your local improving access to psychological therapies commonly known as IAPT service put the amount of sessions you get will vary.

History and underlying theory: The humanistic approach which is also commonly known as person-centred counselling. Is an approach that is focused on helping human beings achieve their full potential through a becoming more congruent within yourself and thereby becoming more self-actualised. The main theorist behind this approach is an American man called Carl Rogers who came up with this theory in the 60’s. Another important theorist was Abraham Maslow who came up with the famously known Maslow hierarchy of needs.


A key factor in this theory is the notion of self-concept. Self-concept refers to the organised and consistent set of beliefs and perceptions an individual has about himself or herself. Person-centred counselling recognises that a person’s self-concept can become displaced if they strive too hard to fit in and be accepted by those around them.

Treatment: The role of the counsellor is to be:
1. Congruence – the counsellor must be completely genuine.
2. Unconditional positive regard – the counsellor must be non-judgemental and valuing of the client.
3. Empathy – the counsellor must strive to understand the client’s experience.
It’s all about how can people become the best versions of themselves. Therefore, it’s not necessarily about having a diagnosed mental health condition at one point in our lives or another we will all struggle with this. This theory is used a lot in the workplace and in health care settings.
Linked to the humanistic approach but can also be practised as a separate therapy is existential psychotherapy. One of the main theorist Victor Frankl founded logo therapy which translates to therapy of the soul, is based on the principle that we need meaning to live it was based on his experience as a Jew in a concentration camp in world war 2, were he observed that to survive the horrors of war what people need is something to give them meaning beyond their suffering. Therefore, when we don’t have meaning in ourselves we experience an existential vacuum which is an inauthentic state of unfulfillment were we are just existing not living which makes us susceptible to mental illness. This theory fits in very well with an Islamic philosophy as it states that we gain value from religion and suffering or negative life events is not necessarily a bad thing as it can help us be aware of what we care about and what’s important.

Cost: In the UK you maybe about to get some free sessions under your local IAPT service or mental health charity. But if you require long-term therapy which can cost between £20 to £60 pounds an hour. To find local qualified therapist check out http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/

History and underlying theory: This approach gone through many periods and transitions over the last 100 years. It was famously founded by Sigmund Freud was one of the first theorist in the west to pay attention to what causes mental illness. In his theory of personality, he states that the mind is composed of a superego which is your moral compass which you internalise from your parents, your ID which contains your instinctive and primitive drives such as food and sex. Then you have your ego in the middle which mediates between the unrealistic id and superego. Also like the diagram below shows some parts of our personality is in our unconscious therefore we don’t have access to it however it still affects us and can come out in the form of defence mechanisms.


For example one of Freud and Breuer’s famous case study of Anna O, she has symptoms of blurry vision and was paralysed on one side of her face although there was nothing wrong with her physically. Through catharis and dream analysis it was discovered that her symptoms were linked to her looking after her dying father.

Treatment: Psychoanalysis is based on the principle that through helping a client bring the unconscious into conscious you can help to alleviate their mental distress. This therapy also focuses a lot on childhood attachment and how that can make you more susceptible to distress as an adult. Due to the depth of this therapy it tends to be more long term than CBT.

Cost: Again, in the UK you may be entitled to get some free sessions under your local IAPT service or mental health charity. But if you require long-term therapy which can cost between £20 to £60 pounds an hour. To find local qualified therapist check out http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/

Islamic counselling
This is not an area I claim to know a lot about as my learning in psychology in the west has of course been secular in nature. However I have a great interest in this area and I shall share some of knowledge I have found.
Note: There isn’t one agreed consensus of what Islamic psychology is, due to the differences in Sunni and Shia traditions as well as a lot of theory traditionally generated through Sufism which is an area for discrepancy for some Muslims.
History And underlying theory: The core principle of this approach unlike secular models is that in order to reach self-actualisation a relationship with god is essential. There are many theorist of this subject such as Imam al Ghazali, and modern Islamic psychologist such as Dr Malik Badri and Dr Rashid Skinner.
They draw inspiration from the Quran to inform the theory of personality. The self is composed of the qalb which connects the self to the ruh (spirit) and is where god consciousness Taqwa comes is rooted. Then there is also alq our intellect which is composed of our rational self.
Then there is our nafs commonly translated to soul or ego, there are three main types mentioned in the quran.
(1) Nafs al-Ammara Bissu’ (The Soul which Commands): similar to the Freudian ID
This is the Nafs that brings punishment itself. By its very nature it directs its owner towards every wrong action. No one can get rid of its evil without the help from Allah. As Allah refers to this Nafs in the story of the wife of al-Aziz (Zulaikha) and Prophet Yusuf (as):
“The (human) soul is certainly prone to evil” (12:53).
Allah also says:
“And had it not been for the grace of Allah and His Mercy on you, not one of you would ever have been pure; but Allah purifies whomever He wishes, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.” (24:21)
This Nafs resides in the world of the senses and is dominated by earthly desires (Shahwat) and passions….
(2) Nafs al-Lawwama (the Soul that Blames):
“And I do call to witness the Nafs that blames” (75:2).
This Nafs is conscious of its own imperfections and is regretful. Most of us are at this level we sin but we constantly asking Allah for forgiveness.
(3) Nafs al-Mutma`inna (the Soul at Peace):
“O Self, in complete rest and satisfaction!” (89:27). This verse is from surah fajr when the believers are in complete peace and know they have pleased their lord as believers enter Jannah.

Treatment: Focus on tazkiyah al-nafs” meaning “purification of the self” through recommendations from the Quran and sunnah such as fasting, doing igstigfar, remembering Allah’s names through dhikr, improving the quality of your salah.
This approach is also frequently incorporated into CBT, psychodynamic and humanistic counselling for Muslim clients so it’s not necessarily a case of one or the other.

Cost: Varies greatly due to the differences in trainings. This website contains a directory of Muslim counsellors and psychotherapist in the UK http://www.mcapn.co.uk/counselling-directory?ed=true

Heart, Self, and Soul: A Sufi Approach to Growth, Balance and Harmony
Traditions, paradigms and basic concepts in Islamic psychology Abdur-rasjid Skinner

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