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Counseling Therapy: A Comprehensive Guide to the Major Theoretical Categories

Counseling therapy and psychotherapy are very similar but aren’t the same thing. Both modalities involve helping people address mental health concerns. However, there are distinct differences in methodology, training requirements, and license requirements that help define each modality as unique practices.

Who Is in Need of Therapy?

Research has shown that individuals suffering from mental illness have a much higher rate of suicide. In fact Mental illness causes two-thirds of all the suicide cases. According to Harvard University Health Services, as many as 35 percent of all Americans suffer from some form of depression at one time or another in their lives (Harvard Health Publications, 2007). Because these people are depressed, they may not be able to fulfill responsibilities and obligations in a manner consistent with cultural expectations; thus, there is a need for therapy. Many individuals develop emotional responses that are long lasting and intense; therefore they would benefit from counseling therapy. These emotional responses can lead them into trouble if they do not seek professional help.

What Is Mental Illness?

Mental illness is a general term for diagnosable, debilitating conditions that affect your mental health. These include major depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Mental illness falls into two broad categories: mood disorders (such as depression) and thought disorders (such as psychosis). 

Exploring 6 Major Theoretical Categories

Cognitive Behavioral Theory

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that employs a combination of cognitive and behavioral techniques. It’s believed that if we’re able to identify thought patterns and replace them with more adaptive ways of thinking, we can decrease self-defeating beliefs about ourselves or about our circumstances.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

Psychotherapies focusing on interpersonal interactions are often ideal for people experiencing depression. Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) is an effective, evidence-based psychotherapy that helps those with depression cope with negative moods and personal relationships through short-term treatment sessions. This type of therapy focuses on interpersonal relationships as a way to alleviate symptoms of depression and prevent relapse or recurrence of depressive episodes. Individuals or groups typically takes 12 weeks to complete IPT . In addition, family members can participate in some aspects of therapy.

Psychodynamic Therapies

Psychodynamic therapy has been evolving since Freud’s time in Vienna. Research indicates it may be most effective for moderate depression when combined with other treatments. When Freud first developed his theories, he didn’t have access to electroshock therapy or prescription medication. Chronic depression and anxiety disorders are still treated today by these methods.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavior therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing patterns of behavior. During counseling, you and your therapist will analyze specific behaviors and how they affect your mental health. By working together to understand how your past actions relate to current issues, you can gain control over troubling thoughts.

Group Therapy

Most therapeutic approaches will be used for specific diagnoses. For example, there are no official guidelines for how one should provide counseling therapy for depression. It’s worth exploring just how each method works and whether it could be of help to someone with a specific mental illness.

Family Systems Theory

Counselling can help you understand a person’s family as an individual and as a part of a system. Family systems theory can help explain why certain behaviors have developed over time and how they play out in relationships between family members.


In conclusion, counseling therapy is a reliable treatment for depression because it works to change the cognitive distortions of a patient. The six major theoretical categories are Humanistic Therapy, Existential Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy and Gestalt Therapy.

Read Another Blog on this topic: Why CBT For Anxiety?

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