Couples in counselling session

Types of Counselling


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Written by Talked Team

21 Feb, 2022

If you need counselling, there are many types of counselling that are available to you. Counselling is a common type of therapy that many people turn to, as it is a non-intrusive method of addressing numerous types of mental health afflictions such as:

  • grief and loss

  • communication and relationships issues

  • work and career issues

  • stress, anxiety and depression

  • life transitions such as the birth of a new baby, separation, divorce or the death of a family member or friend

  • parenting

  • addiction

  • abuse

  • trauma

  • self-esteem difficulties

  • exploring their gender identity and/or sexuality

What is Counselling?

Counselling is a process of therapy that involves talking about and working through one’s personal problems with a counsellor. The role of the counsellor is to address the client’s problems in a positive way by helping them to clarify the issues, explore options, develop strategies and increase self-awareness.

A counsellor is someone trained to offer discussion based therapy, of which there are many different types. A counsellor may work in partnership with a medical doctor or other health professional at times to give comprehensive therapy and integrated care.

How do I choose a counsellor?

When looking for a counsellor for therapy, it is important to consider the following:

  • The types of therapy you want your counsellor to take

  • The accreditations your counsellor has

  • The amount of sessions that clients of your counsellor typically attend

  • The counsellor’s main interests and fields of experience

  • How much experience your counsellor has

  • How much you are willing to spend, as counsellors can charge more than others (however, it is worth noting that price is not a hard indicator of quality)

Is counselling covered by Medicare?

Counsellors are not covered under a Medicare rebate, only psychologists as well as some social workers are. To be entitled to a Medicare rebate for therapy you must get a mental health care plan from your doctor and you must be referred to a therapist. This means your doctor will assess, through a questionnaire and knowledge of you, whether you would benefit from mental health support.

A mental health care plan provides you with up to 20 sessions per year (until June 2022) with a Medicare rebate. Medicare unfortunately does not provide rebates for counsellors, but you may be eligible for a rebate on your private health insurance, depending on your policy.

What are the other forms of therapy and how are they different from counselling?

Counselling is not the only form of therapy, and there are many whose needs are better addressed by available therapy alternatives. Because they are worth considering, we’ve listed them below, as well as what differentiates them.


Psychologists are mental health professionals that are trained specifically in the science of how people think, feel, behave and learn. While counsellors take a more person-centred approach during therapy, in which their goal is to help the patient articulate their feelings, psychologists take a more medical approach in which their goal is to clinically assess and diagnose the patient. As a result, psychologists tend to treat patients whose ailments are more severe, whereas counsellors treat patients with mild to moderate symptoms.


Psychotherapy and counselling are similar in principle, however psychotherapy is a more long-term approach to therapy. The latter typically deals with present issues that are easily resolved on the conscious level whereas psychotherapy intensively and extensively examines a person’s psychological history. It goes much deeper to uncover root causes of problems, resulting in more dramatic changes in perspective regarding oneself, one’s life experience, and the world in general.

Social Work

As their name suggests, social workers address mental health issues from a social perspective. They assist people who need therapy or information about mental health issues. Social workers also work to address social injustice on behalf of individuals and organisations, providing help in a number of situations including child wellbeing and protection, domestic and family violence, homelessness and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Some social workers may work in a particular area, such as youth services or as refugee advocates.

Additionally, some social workers are also Medicare providers as well. This means that you may be able to receive a medicare rebate for their services. 

Methods of Counselling

There are many different types of therapy that counsellors can take in order to help their patients. Each of these approaches examines mental health through different therapy related lenses in order to identify the problems afflicting a patient, as well as how best to address those problems through therapy. 

Different counsellors specialise in different therapy approaches, which allows for flexibility amongst patients. If you find that one of these types of therapy isn’t working for you, you have several other therapy options available.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a process-driven approach to therapy guided by the following principles:

  • Mental health disorders involve key learning and information processing mechanisms.

  • Behaviours are better understood by exposing their true functions during therapy.

  • Negative behaviours can be substituted for productive behaviours through learning experiences devised during therapy

  • The learning experiences determined during therapy must be devised through a scientific approach, in which a hypothesis is devised about the patients’ cognitive and behavioural patterns, followed by direct intervention, the observation of outcomes and the reframing of that hypothesis as needed

Constructionist Therapy

Constructionist therapy exists to address the meaning that patients construct regarding the world around them. Through this therapy, the therapist examines the mental health problems that arise from power imbalances believed to be related to gender, race, and social class; which are then shaped by cultural influences and human interpretation.

Creative Therapy

Creative therapy is a form of therapy in which a patient’s artistic inclinations are stimulated in order to help them express their thoughts and feelings. This form of therapy involves the use of mediums such as music and painting in order to provide the patient with the sense of catharsis that comes from releasing positive feelings. 

Existential Therapy

Existential therapy does not focus on curing a person or diminishing their mental health symptoms. Instead, a therapist partaking in existential therapy is concerned with exploring and questioning aspects of the human predicament, helping a client by having them explore their reasons for existing. While this particular approach to therapy is not as common, an existential therapist still has the capacity to help patients by helping them examine unfulfilled needs and potential, as well as how to make rational choices.

Humanistic/Client-Centred Therapy

Humanistic therapy is an approach to therapy that mainly relies on positive reinforcement for patients. The idea behind this therapy is for the therapist to displace the negative emotions brought on from mental health problems (and the subsequent behaviours that arise from them) by affirming the positive qualities of the patient that allow them to flourish (i.e. curiosity, intuition, creativity, humility, empathy, and altruism). As a result, the therapist tends to take a more passive approach during this therapy, letting the client do most of the talking and only intervening to guide the patient wherever necessary.

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy is an approach to therapy in which the clients’ ailments are regarded mainly from a medical standpoint by a therapist. This approach to therapy is less about the therapist determining the causes for a patient’s mental illness, and more about the therapist identifying the triggers and environmental stressors that exacerbate a patient’s existing mental health problems. As a result, the goal of interpersonal therapy is for the therapist to suggest ways for clients to deal with situations in a way that promotes self-efficacy and reduces symptoms.

Mindfulness-Based Therapy

Mindfulness is an approach to therapy in which the patient is encouraged by a therapist to adopt a mental state characterised by nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment experience, including one’s sensations, thoughts, bodily states, consciousness, and the environment while encouraging openness, curiosity, and acceptance.This form of therapy is engaged by a therapist to encourage patients to avoid reflexive responses to emotional triggers, instead responding reflectively in a manner that allows the patient to assume control of the situation and regulate their emotions.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy is a form of therapy in which the therapist aims to address how the patient derives meaning from their life and subsequently perceives and responds to the world around them. The idea behind this therapy is for the therapist to guide the patient towards a positive narrative that aids their ability to enjoy meaningful and satisfying experiences.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is an approach to therapy in which the focus is on identifying how past experiences affect current problems. Specifically, psychodynamic therapy aims to determine the link between unconscious drives and conflicting aspects of personality. The goal of psychodynamic therapy is to aid clients in developing the psychological tools needed to deal with complicated feelings and situations by having the therapist conduct discussions where the patient gets to air their thoughts and feelings in a safe environment. 

Rational Emotive Therapy

Rational emotive therapy is an alternative to CBT in which the distress that manifests from a person’s mental health problems is a function of irrational or faulty thinking. In this form of therapy, the therapist examines the patient’s belief about a situation and how it affects the situation itself. The goal of this therapy is to help patients avoid self-defeating beliefs and ultimately experience a more positive sense of wellbeing.

Reality Therapy

Similarly to other therapy approaches, reality therapy is based on the notion that a patient has the power to reclaim control over their lives that has been ceded to mental health problems. The goal of this type of therapy is to help patients to establish greater control over their lives while enhancing the ability to build meaningful and effective relationships. Instead of focusing on symptoms, reality therapy promotes individual responsibility for actions.

Systemic Therapy

Systemic therapy is a form of therapy in which the focal point is how patterns across systems (e.g., family, school, and employment) influence behaviours and psychological issues. Because of this, this form of therapy is used more for the sake of repairing these systems as opposed to rehabilitating a singular patient.

Where should I go if I need counselling?

If you are looking for any one of the many types of therapist, including experienced and qualified counsellors, you can find help and book your first therapy session here.

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