The counselling world contains many terms and acronyms that may seem alien to a trainee. We've collated a glossary of terms to help you understand them:
Arts therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses art materials, such as paints, chalk and markers. Art therapy combines traditional psychotherapeutic theories and techniques with an understanding of the psychological aspects of the creative process, especially the affective properties of the different art materials. Using their skills in evaluation and psychotherapy, art therapists choose materials and interventions appropriate to their clients’ needs and design sessions to achieve therapeutic goals and objectives. They use the creative process to help their clients increase insight and judgment, cope better with stress, work through traumatic experiences, increase cognitive abilities, have better relationships with family and friends, and to just be able to enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of the creative experience.
Attachment theory concerns how relationships between humans are formed and maintained. Its most important tenet is that a young child needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally. Attachment theory in relation to counselling involves looking at the present-day impact of the client’s earlier relationships (e.g. those from childhood). And so it includes looking at family-of-origin issues, plus attachment and separation issues, and any resultant painful and challenging patterns, past or present.
British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies. BABCP's website address is www.babcp.com.
College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (previously known as the British Association for Sexual and Relationship Therapy). COSRT's website address is www.cosrt.org.uk.
British Psychological Society. The BPS's website address is www.bps.org.uk.
The British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy is a UK professional association that offers accreditation for individual counsellors, psychotherapists and supervisors, as well for relevant training courses.. BACP's website address is www.bacp.co.uk.
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy focuses on understanding how our thoughts or beliefs effect our behaviour and the way we feel.
Someone who has a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology (or equivalent) and is a chartered member of the British Psychological Society.
As in 'life coaching' for example, coaching is a professional service providing clients with feedback, insights and guidance from an outside vantage point. Coaching is similar to the practice of counselling, but the major difference is that coaching is an on-going collaborative partnership built on taking action. A person might enage with a coach when, for example, they are making a career transition, starting a new business, feeling dissatisfied, re-evaluating life choices, or simply looking for personal and professional breakthroughs.
To do with the mind and the processes of thinking.
A counsellor works with a client in a private and confidential setting to explore a difficulty the client is having or distress they may be experiencing. By listening attentively and patiently the counsellor can begin to see things from the client's point of view and can help them to see things more clearly, perhaps from a different perspective. Counselling is a way of enabling choice or change or of reducing confusion. It doesn't involve giving advice or telling a client to take a particular course of action.
A UK-based professional association.
A form of counselling used with both individuals and couples who are experiencing distress in their relationship.
Depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of loss, anger, sadness, or frustration interfere with everyday life. It can be mild, moderate, or severe and occur as a single episode, as recurring episodes, or as chronic depression (lasting more than 2 years).
Selecting what seems best from (i.e. a mixture of) various styles, doctrines, ideas, methods, etc.
A counselling relationship that is conducted through the sending of email letters by the client and email responses by the counsellor.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing: a comprehensive, integrative psychotherapy approach. EMDR therapists ask their clients to hold the memories of anxiety-provoking stimuli - for example, the painful memories of a frightening accident - in their minds. While doing so, clients track the therapist’s back-and-forth finger movements with their eyes, much like following a hypnotist’s swinging pocket watch.
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a form of alternative psychotherapy that aims to manipulate the body's energy field by tapping on acupressure points while a specific traumatic memory is focused on, in order to alleviate a psychological problem. EFT aims to be a simpler, more user-friendly type of "Meridian Energy Therapy" (MET). MET originated in 1981, when Roger Callahan, a US psychologist, developed Thought Field Therapy (TFT) - which claims good results treating psychological problems by tapping on the body's acupressure points. TFT uses sequences of tapping specific points, in a particular order, for a particular problem - e.g. anxiety, phobias, physical pain, trauma, addictive urges etc.
Aims to bring together the many Transactional Analysis (TA) training activities in Europe and to ensure high standards. It currently has 34 membership associations with more than 7,550 members in 27 European countries. TA is an integrative approach to counselling and psychotherapy, meaning that it integrates together elements of the psychoanalytic, humanist and cognitive approaches. TA is a process to diagnose the ego states where verbal exchanges originate, as well as techniques to use this information to improve communication. It usually involves helping the client get in touch with internal parent/adult/child transactions that affect human behaviour.
The exploration of meaning and value and learning to live authentically (i.e in accordance with your own ideals, priorities and values). Authentic living means being true to yourself and honest about your own possibilities and limitations, continually creating your own identity even in the face of uncertainty about everything in the future except the eventual arrival of death. It means living deliberately, rather than by default. The existential therapist facilitates the client's own encounter with themselves and works with them in the job of exploring and understanding better the client's values, assumptions and ideals. The therapist avoids imposing their own judgement, but instead engages seriously with what matters most to the client, helping them to elucidate and elaborate on their own perspective - so that ultimately they're able to live life well and in their own way.
The aim here is to help family members create and sustain a highly effective and happy family/family "team".
An approach that aims to allow access to the deeper levels of awareness, wisdom, and self-guidance that reside inside each of us. Through an easily learned, step-by step process, Focusing teaches how to turn our attention inside our bodies where we carry all our personal experiences, memories, sensations, emotions and feelings.
A German word meaning 'form' or 'pattern': we look for and create meaning (and patterns and structures) in our lives. In contrast to psychoanalysis and 'talk' therapies, Gestalt emphasises 'awareness of the here and now', of the body, movement, gesture, feelings and insights. Gestalt therapists generally encourage clients to focus on present experience - thoughts, feeling, sensations, intuitions - rather than 'going off' into thinking about their past or the supposed origins of a particular issue.
Grounding techniques - often using the five senses (sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight) - are generally designed to bring the client back into an awareness of the 'here and now'. They are often used as a way of coping with flashbacks or dissociation. For example, listening to loud music, holding onto a piece of ice, or biting into a lemon are all grounding techniques that produce sensations that are difficult to ignore, thereby directly and instantaneously connecting you with the present moment.
To take an holistic approach means to look at the whole picture and all its parts, rather than concentrating on just one or two elements. So holistic counselling is an approach that focuses on the whole person (spirit, mind, feelings and body) and how these are connected together. 'Holistic' is sometimes spelt 'wholistic'.
Health Professions Council
A school of psychology based on the notion that we are all born with innate knowledge programmed into us from our genes. Throughout life we experience this knowledge as feelings of given physical (e.g. water and food) and emotional needs (e.g attention, privacy etc).
In this approach the counsellor is regarded not so much as an 'expert' who knows more than the client, but instead as someone who is skilled in facilitating a process of self-discovery in another. The central belief is in the possibility for change and growth towards fulfilment of potential, in which the individual is self-aware and responsible for her/his own choices.
Institute for Arts in Therapy and Education: they offer accredited training courses and Masters Degrees in Arts Psychotherapy / Child Psychotherapy / Emotional Literacy and Child Counselling. IATE's website address is www.artspsychotherapy.org.
The childlike aspect of an adult person's psyche, especially when viewed as an independent entity, which is believed to retain feelings as they were experienced in childhood.
Integrating knowledge and skills from different therapies: integrating the core values and assumptions underlying different approaches to counselling into a meaningful whole that fuses with the counsellor`s own personal values.
Logotherapy is a type of existentialist analysis that focuses on a “will to meaning” - as opposed to Adler's doctrine of “will to power” or Freud's “will to pleasure”. Rather than power or pleasure, logotherapy is founded on the belief that striving to find a meaning in one's life is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving human force. “Logotherapy” stems from the Greek word “logos” (or “meaning”). Its basic principles are:
Meridian Energy Therapies originated in 1981, when Roger Callahan, a US psychologist, developed Thought Field Therapy (TFT) - which claims good results treating psychological problems by tapping on the body's acupressure points. TFT uses sequences of tapping specific points, in a particular order, for a particular problem - e.g. anxiety, phobias, physical pain, trauma, addictive urges etc. "Energy Psychology" or Meridian Energy Therapies, are continuing to evolve, and the original Thought Field Therapy has been further developed by Gary Craig, into a simpler, more user-friendly tapping routine, known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which is claimed to be effective at treating anxiety, phobias and other various psychological disorders swiftly, gently and very effectively.
A cognitive approach to psychotherapy based on perceptual control theory (PCT) and the observation that a person’s consciousness can apparently operate from different viewpoints within the brain’s organisation. The objective of this method is to draw a person’s attention to perceptions at levels higher than perceptions in the primary or central focus of attention. When a level shift has occurred, the same process is repeated as any times as possible or useful.
A client-centred, semi-directive means of engaging with the client’s intrinsic motivation to change their behaviour. In part it involves exploring the discrepancy (between how the client wants their lives to be and how it currently is, or between their deeply-held values and their day-to-day behaviour) and exploring and resolving the client’s ambivalence. Motivational interviewing recognises and accepts the fact that clients who need to make changes in their lives approach counselling at different levels of readiness to change their behaviour. They may never have thought of changing the behaviour in question. Some may have thought about it but not taken steps to change it. Others may be actively trying to change their behaviour and may have been doing so unsuccessfully for years. Motivational interviewing is non-judgmental, non-confrontational and non-adversarial. The approach attempts to increase the client's awareness of the potential problems caused, consequences experienced, and risks faced as a result of the behaviour in question. Alternately, therapists help clients envisage a better future, and become increasingly motivated to achieve it. Either way, the strategy seeks to help clients think differently about their behaviour and ultimately to consider what might be gained through change.
Narrative therapy holds that our identities are shaped by the accounts of our lives found in our stories or narratives. A narrative therapist is interested in helping others fully describe their rich stories and trajectories, ways of living and possibilities associated with them. At the same time, the therapist is interested in co-investigating a problem's many influences, including on the client themself and on their chief relationships. By focusing on problems' effects on people's lives rather than on problems as inside or part of people, distance is created. This externalisation or objectification of a problem makes it easier to investigate and evaluate the problem's influences.
National Council of Psychotherapists: a UK-based national and international association of therapists, mainly in private practice. Most schools of psychological thought are represented and a wide variety of therapeutic approaches are offered.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) supposes that the words we use reflect our subconscious perception of our problems. If these words and perceptions are inaccurate, then as long as we continue to use and think of them the underlying problem will persist. Thus our attitudes are, in a sense, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Neuro refers to the brain and neural pathways that feeds into it. Linguistic refers to the content (verbal and non-verbal) that move along these pathways. Programming is the way the content or signal is manipulated to change it into useful information. The brain may direct the signal, sequence it, change it based on our prior experience, or connect it to some other experience we have stored in our brain to convert it into thinking patterns and behaviours that are the essence of our life experience.
This approach says we're born with the ability to reach our full potential, but our early experiences may alienate us from our true self. The therapist seeks to be open and willing to express their own identity without hiding behind expertise or degrees. They also provide other conditions needed for the client's growth: 1) Unconditional positive regard (acceptance and appreciation of the client). 2) Empathic understanding (seeing things through the client's eyes).
A form of psychotherapy that uses play situations/toys and games to build a therapeutic relationship and encourage self-expression.
Aims to work with clients who have experienced something that drastically exceeds the flexibility of their mind to understand and manage - e.g. arising from war or terrorism, natural disaster, major accident etc.
The psychoanalytic approach aims to analyse the root causes of behaviour and feelings by exploring the unconscious mind and the conscious mind's relation to it. Many theories and therapies have evolved from the original Freudian psychoanalysis which utilises free-association, dreams, and transference, as well other strategies to help the client know the function of their own minds.
Psychodynamic counselling focuses on unconscious processes and is derived from the work of Freud and later psychoanalytic theorists. It uses the therapeutic relationship to gain insight into unconscious relationship patterns that have evolved since childhood. Memories and other evidence of early relationships are used to make sense of current concerns. Change occurs as clients become more aware of the influence of the unconscious (e.g. defence mechanisms, instincts and rules for life) on their behaviour.
This refers to the relationship between spirituality and the mind. It doesn't centre on to any particular set of religious beliefs. Instead of seeing a client's distress or difficulty as an isolated clinical disturbance, psychospiritual counselling seeks a deeper, holistic, mind-body-spirit approach, attributing meaning to every experience of life.
Related to transpersonal psychology, this type of psychotherapy focuses on three levels of the unconscious - lower, middle and higher (or transpersonal). The aim is to help the client fuse the various parts of their personality into a more cohesive self. A great emphasis is placed on their spiritual dimension or higher self as a source of inspiration, wisdom, unconditional love and meaning in life - all within a universe that is seen as orderly and structured to promote the evolution of consciousness.
A psychotherapist works with a client in a private and confidential setting to explore a difficulty the client is having or distress they may be experiencing. By listening attentively and patiently the psychotherapist can begin to see things from the client's point of view and can help them to see things more clearly, perhaps from a different perspective. Psychotherapy a way of enabling choice or change or of reducing confusion. It doesn't involve giving advice or telling a client to take a particular course of action
Relational Counselling hinges on the therapeutic relationship between client and counsellor and sees this relationship as a co-creation between the two. It is based on the idea that emotional well-being is dependent on having satisfying relationships with others, and that emotional distress is often rooted in patterns of relational experience, past and present, which have the power to demean and deaden the self. The relational therapist tries to understand the client's unique self-experience in its social/relational context and to respond with empathy and genuine presence. Together, client and therapist create a new in-depth relationship which is supportive, strengthening and enlivening. Within this secure relationship, the client can safely re-experience, and then find freedom from, the effects of destructive relationships, past and present.
Relating to the system of therapy - developed by Carl Rogers - which emphasises a person-to-person relationship between the therapist and the client. In this person-centred approach the client determines the course, speed, and duration of treatment and can find the means to restructure his or her life by establishing a relationship with an understanding therapist.
This approach (developed by psychologist Carl Rogers in the 1940s and 1950s) says we're born with the ability to reach our full potential, but our early experiences may alienate us from our true self. The therapist seeks to be open and willing to express their own identity without hiding behind expertise or degrees. They also provide other conditions needed for the client's growth: 1) Unconditional positive regard (acceptance and appreciation of the client). 2) Empathic understanding (seeing things through the client's eyes).
In sand tray work, the client is invited to create a piece of her/his world in a tray containing sand. They can do so by making patterns in the sand and/or using water and/or placing miniature objects (from an extensive choice made available) into the sandtray in any configuration that feels right. Everyone is encouraged to play with the sand exactly as they wish. Some dig into its depths. Others build up to the heights. Some create geographies of mountains, valleys and rivers. Others create worlds with objects and figures. Some create dramatic play that tells a story. Some work with dry sand and others add water. Some talk as they build and others remain silent. There is no right or wrong way to play. There are those who have described sandtray as comparable to a "waking dream". Meaningful images, dilemmas, fears, hopes and dreams can be accessed through the sandtray, allowing conscious and unconscious aspects of the psyche to interact. The therapist neither analyses nor interprets the sand-world. The meaning of the play emerges as the client experiences it and shares it with the therapist. The outcome is often a feeling of rightness and truth for the client. "This is how it is. This is just what it is like for me."
Solution focused therapy focuses on what clients want to achieve through therapy rather than on the problem(s) that made them to seek help. The approach does not focus on the past, but instead, focuses on the present and future.
Supervision is a working alliance between a supervisor and a counsellor in which the counsellor can offer an account or recording of their work, reflect on it, receive feedback, and where appropriate, guidance. The purpose of this alliance is to enable the counsellor to gain in ethical competence, confidence, and creativity so as to give her best possible service to her/his clients. A counselling supervisor - who will also be a quallifed counsellor - is not a 'boss' or manager.
Systemic therapy works with a particular focus on a client's relationships - their interactional patterns and dynamics with family, partner, groups etc. It seeks to approach problems practically rather than analytically. Thus it does not attempt to determine past causes (as does the psychoanalytic approach), nor does it assign diagnosis (who is ill, who is a victim etc). Systemic therapy seeks instead to identify stagnant patterns of behaviour in groups of people such as a family, and to address those patterns directly, irrespective of analysis of cause.
Transactional Analysis (TA) is an integrative approach to counselling and psychotherapy, meaning that it integrates together elements of the psychoanalytic, humanist and cognitive approaches. TA is both a process to diagnose the ego states where verbal exchanges originate and a set of techniques to use this information to improve communication. It usually involves helping the client get in touch with internal parent/adult/child transactions that affect human behaviour.
A therapeutic relationship between you and a counsellor carried out by telephone.
A relationship (between counsellor and client) which aims to heal or help to restore healthiness.
Time-limited therapy (also called bried therapy) involves a limited (small) number of sessions - a limit agreed with the client beforehand. It emphasises (1) a focus on a specific problem and (2) direct intervention. In addition to often being very exploratory, it is usually solution-based rather than problem-oriented: less concerned with how a problem arose than with the current factors sustaining it and preventing change. In brief therapy, the therapist takes responsibility for working more pro-actively with the client in order to more quickly treat clinical and subjective conditions.
That which is beyond the purely personal - i.e. that which connects, unites and transcends us, but which is experienced and given meaning individually. Transpersonal psychology looks at the transpersonal, self-transcendent or spiritual aspects of the human experience.
United Kingdom Association for Humanistic Psychology Practitioners (UKAHPP) is a professional association for all those who apply the theories of humanistic psychology in their work.
United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) is a professional association with a membership of over 6,000 individual psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors. UKCP's website address is www.ukcp.org.uk.
United Kingdom Register of Counsellors: a voluntary register of independent counsellors who have achieved accreditation through a UKRC-recognised accrediting organisation - currently these are the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), COSCA (Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland), Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals (FDAP) and the United Kingdom Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners (UKAHPP). A UKRC-registered counsellor must: