I would like to preface everything on this page by saying that although it is interesting to know what each therapy offers and this knowledge can be useful to match up your personality and expectations to a particular kind of therapy, theory is not everything. Research shows that regardless of the theoretical background of the counsellor, the most important factor to effect change is the relationship between counsellor and client. With that in mind, I would urge you to do your research and try a few different counsellors until you find one with whom you are most comfortable. If you feel you have a good "fit" with a therapist, then you are more likely to feel safe enough to be more open as sessions progress...
The most recognisable name in "talking therapy" might be Sigmund Freud, who started the psycho-analytic tradition. Counselling has since evolved into many forms, some of which are Psychodynamic psychotherapy, Humanistic Counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I will give some brief descriptions of each of these below and I hope that they will help you to decide what kind of therapeutic style matches your personality and current needs.
I am trained in Humanistic Counselling, which means that I am focused on you as a whole person, that I believe you have the desire for and the capability of achieving your best possible life, and that together we can work towards achieving that life for you. I will help you by focusing on what your experience of life means to you, exploring how current feelings and behaviours are influenced by past events and relationships.
Person Centred Counselling, Gestalt Therapy and Existentialism all fall into the Humanistic School of Thought. Here are some (hopefully!) useful definitions of each of these, and some other models of therapy
Person Centred Counselling is a non-directive approach to being with another; that believes in the other’s potential and ability to make the right choices for him or herself, regardless of the therapist’s own values, beliefs and ideas.
Gestalt Therapy focuses on cycles of experiences and the way in which these experiences are interrupted. It uses the relationship between therapist and client as a basis for developing and deepening an understanding of these processes in the client’s life. The focus is on the “here and now” experience rather than the past or future.
Existential Counselling focuses on the inter-personal dimensions, as it tries to capture and question people’s world-views. Such existential work aims at clarifying and understanding personal values and beliefs, making explicit what was previously implicit and unsaid. It’s practice is primarily philosophical and seeks to enable a person to live more deliberately, more authentically and more purposefully, whilst accepting the limitations and contradictions of human existence.
Other models of therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which the therapist and the client work together as a team to identify and solve problems. Therapists use CBT to help clients overcome their difficulties by changing their thinking, behaviour, and emotional responses. This model describes how people’s perceptions of, or spontaneous thoughts about, situations influence their emotional, and behavioural reactions. Individuals’ perceptions are often distorted and dysfunctional when they are distressed. They can learn to identify and evaluate their “automatic thoughts”, and to correct their thinking so that it more closely resembles reality. When they do so, their distress usually decreases, and they are able to behave more functionally.
The primary focus of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy is to reveal the unconscious content of a client's psyche in an effort to alleviate tension. In this way, it is similar to psychoanalysis. Like many in the Humanistic tradition, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy relies on the interpersonal relationship between client and therapist. It could also be described as a form of depth psychology, generally requiring time for a deep and trusting relationship to develop between therapist and client.