What kind of therapy should you choose?
If you're looking for help with a psychological problem, there are so many options now that it can be a little overwhelming. Look online and you'll find numerous varieties of counsellor, humanistic/integrative/Gestalt/psychodynamic psychotherapists, various brands of psychoanalyst and people (like me) offering some form of cognitive therapy, usually cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) but also including schema therapy, compassion-focused therapy (CFT), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) - the list goes on...
Here's a brief guide to which approach I would recommend for which problem:
Counselling is a short-term approach in which you can work through painful feelings in a safe, non-judgemental, non-directive relationship with a (hopefully) well-trained counsellor. Counselling is ideal if you have just experienced a major loss or upset, such as a bereavement or relationship breakup. It can also be very useful if you feel in need of some ongoing support to help you through a life crisis. It is not as effective for anxiety-related problems - CBT is proven to be much more successful at treating things like health anxiety or OCD. Please be aware that anyone can call themselves a 'counsellor', so always check that the person is qualifed and belongs to a professional body like the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).
Psychotherapy comes in many guises, but here I will cover humanistic, psychodynamic and integrative (which is usually some combination of the two). Like counselling, humanistic therapy is a useful way of gaining insight into your problems and working through painful feelings. Great emphasis is placed on the relationship between therapist and client, which in itself is seen as healing and a way of learning to relate better with other people in your life. Psychodynamic therapy also places great emphasis on the relationship, but is typically more challenging and will involve exploring how early life difficulties or painful/traumatic experiences have led to present-day problems. This doesn't suit everyone (and, again, is not the best approach for anxiety-related problems), but if you find a skilled psychodynamic therapist it can provide useful insights and be a powerful way to 'work through' upsetting experiences from your past. Again, anyone can call themselves a 'therapist', so make sure the person belongs to either the BACP or United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
Cognitive therapy also comes in various flavours, but by far the most common is cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). Of course, as a cognitive therapist, I'm biased, but having trained in other approaches (including humanistic and integrative counselling/psychotherapy) I believe it to be the most helpful method for most problems. CBT is usually short-term (anything from six to 20 sessions) and problem-focused, although deeper-rooted difficulties such as chronic depression or eating disorders can take longer to resolve. It is the only 'talking therapy' that is overtly scientific, both in terms of its collaborative, open-minded approach between therapist and client (me being the expert on CBT, you being the expert on you); and in constantly developing and adapting techniques and treatment models as we find better ways of treating psychological problems.
CBT is proven to be the most effective way to treat anxiety-related problems such as OCD, generalised anxiety disorder (excessive worrying), panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, social and health anxiety, as well as depression, eating disorders and many other psychological difficulties. In my experience, you can often (although, of course, not always) help people get better quickly with CBT, even when they have quite severe problems which might take a year or more with other approaches. Because the most important thing for me is to help people get better as quickly as possible, I am very glad I can offer people cognitive therapy.
This is not to say that CBT is good and everything else is bad/inferior - just that it has a huge research base proving that it does work really well for a lot of things. If you are looking for help, the most important first step is to do your own research - talking to friends who have had a successful course of therapy is a really good idea, especially if they can recommend a particular practitioner. Also look online to find out which approach fits best for you and then try it out - don't be afraid to switch therapists/approaches if it's not working.
And if you would like some help from me you can contact my assistant, Dawn Cope, on 0208 318 5735 or firstname.lastname@example.org