An Overview of Therapeutic Approaches


A counselor’s therapeutic approach is the way they work with their clients. Because all
counselors are unique individuals, they have different therapeutic approaches. Because all
clients are unique individuals, they will find there are some therapeutic approaches that work
better for them than others.

If you are considering beginning therapy, it may be helpful to understand some different
therapeutic approaches so that you can choose a therapist who will be a good fit for you. Below you
will find more information on different therapeutic approaches that are commonly used
by therapists.


Psychoanalysis involves working with a therapist to make unconscious thoughts conscious.
Psychoanalysts believe that by uncovering the unconscious thoughts, clients can develop an
understanding of why they feel the way they feel and behave the way they behave.
Psychoanalysts examine experiences in the therapy session as well as in their clients’ lives to
develop an understanding of what might be going on in the unconscious mind.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy works to understand how a person developed abnormal or maladaptive
behaviors. The goal of behavioral therapy is to eliminate problematic behaviors in a person’s life
through classical conditioning, desensitizing, and operant conditioning. These types of
interventions work to change a person’s behavior by breaking unproductive associations,
discouraging negative behavior, and rewarding positive behavior.

Cognitive Therapy

Whereas behavioral therapy places an emphasis on people’s actions, cognitive therapy emphasizes people’s thoughts dictating their feelings and behaviors. Cognitive therapists work to examine their clients’ thought patterns and identify negative belief systems that are causing negative feelings and behaviors. Cognitive therapists work with their clients to promote more positive thinking with the expectation that positive feelings and behaviors will follow.

Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapists approach therapy with their clients from a framework of humans being
capable of making rational decisions and reaching their full potential. Therapists who subscribe
to this therapeutic approach believe that clients need to be supported and validated in therapy
sessions, not told what to do. Gestalt therapy and existential therapy both fall under the
category of humanistic therapy.

Integrative Therapy

Integrative therapists don’t subscribe to any one of the therapeutic approaches described
above. Instead, they treat each client as an individual and pull from a variety of therapeutic
approaches based on what the client seems to need in the therapy session.

Is Therapy Right for Me?

If you feel you might benefit from therapy, The Light Program has counselors trained in a variety of these approaches. Contact us with any questions or to schedule an appointment. You can also learn more about therapy from our blog.

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Article by Shaylyn Forte, LPC, CAADC