The counselling relationship
Psychodynamic therapy, transactional analysis, Gestalt, integrative therapy, person-centred therapy, humanistic therapy, core process, existential therapy. These are just some of the "talking therapies" currently available[i].
As a prospective client, by all means research these different therapies, to get a feel for what might work best for you. But please remember that many therapists are qualified in more than one discipline and may take a "combination" approach to your treatment.
It is also worth bearing in mind the so-called "Dodo bird verdict", first proposed by Saul Rosenzweig in 1936. This is the idea that therapy will not be successful because of the effectiveness of its theoretical backing. Rather, success depends upon the strength of features common to all recognised therapies [ii]. The most important of these features is the relationship between therapist and client.
Your issue might be anxiety attacks, depression, difficulties at home or work, anger, sexual dysfunction, loneliness or an inability to reconcile yourself to past events. Whatever the issue, relationship problems will almost certainly be at its centre.
Humans are social animals. We need meaningful contact with other humans. To laugh, to argue, to play, to adventure, create and love – with other people. If we are lacking in meaningful contact – that is, in relationships – our lives will almost certainly feel unsatisfying or worse.
Whether the therapist is psychodynamic or person-centred, he or she will attempt to develop an honest and close relationship with clients. Relationship-building takes time, session by session, week by week, month by month. As the client learns to trust the therapist, so she will begin to entrust the therapist with her true feelings and thoughts. Meaningful contact between client and therapist occurs. The therapy room becomes a space in which old beliefs are challenged and fresh ideas emerge.
As importantly, the therapeutic relationship can be used by the client as a model for relationship-building outside the therapy room in the real world. Successful counselling has relationship-building at its heart: the client-therapist relationship, the client's relationships with others and not least, the client's relationship with himself.
Whether you accept the Dodo bird verdict [iii] or not, the counselling relationship will be at the heart of successful therapy.
[i] I have not included behavioural therapies (CBT etc.) here as they have a slightly different ethos.
[ii] See Campbell Purton, Therapy Today, February 2016: "Why The Dodo Got It Right" - www.bacp.co.uk/admin/structure/files/pdf/15083_ttfeb16.pdf
[iii] Named after the Dodo character in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, who declared, "all must have prizes!"