There are many different types of counseling, and finding which type is right for you can be confusing. Misconceptions about therapy can often lead individuals to the wrong impression. Many people do not realize how many different types of therapy there are. Your therapist or counselor will work with you to find the type of counseling that works best for you, but having knowledge of these approaches beforehand will help you better understand what therapy can do and how it works.

Types of Counseling and Counselors

Different types of counseling may be characterized by the purpose of the sessions, how many people are involved, the length of therapy, or by the therapy approach used. To start, we’ll introduce you to different types of counseling based on the purpose of the session.

The main types of counseling are:

  • Mental health counseling
  • Couples and family counseling
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Career and education counseling

Keep in mind that different types of counselors may use similar therapy approaches or counseling styles, which we’ll cover later. For the purposes of this blog post, we will use the terms therapy and counseling interchangeably, but remember that there are important differences between therapists, counselors, and psychologists.

This is not an exhaustive list of the types of counseling, but rather some of the most common you may see. You can learn more about these and other types of counseling by scheduling a consultation.

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Mental Health Counseling

This is perhaps the most common type of counseling, which deals with an individual’s mental health. This is a broad term, and this type of counseling encompasses many things. You might seek mental health counseling if you are struggling with chronic depression, or a recent event has brought on episodic depression. Mental health counseling might also include managing anxiety, anger, or self-esteem. It might also include managing a mental illness, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, among others.

Couples and Family Counseling

types of counseling and counselors

This type of counseling is interpersonal, meaning it deals with two or more people and how they think and act towards each other. Family counseling addresses family dynamics, which can include anyone in a household, including parents, children, grandparents, extended family and more. Couples counseling and marriage counseling deals only with romantically involved partners. In this type of counseling, participants will work on communication strategies, constructive expression and criticism, and will work to break down negative patterns of behavior.

Substance Abuse Counseling

Substance abuse counseling is concerned with addiction and the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors surrounding it. This type of counseling is provided at rehabilitation centers, and at many specially-focused counseling offices. Substance abuse counseling is focused on the individual struggling with addiction, and may also include their family and friends in the process.

Career and Education Counseling

For those struggling with their career, uncertain how to make the next step, or not sure what their education pathway looks like, career and education counseling can be helpful. This may include advice and information on careers, colleges and courses, as well as some emotional or behavioral therapy to overcome obstacles. Career counseling and life coaching can sometimes be misconstrued, but there are important differences between the two.

Types of Counseling and Counseling Strategies

Counselors may specialize in certain counseling strategies, or they may use several together. Some techniques integrate different strategies and use them together, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which integrates behavior therapy and cognitive therapy. There are many individual techniques within each approach. Which techniques and strategies your counselor uses will depend on their unique approach as well as your situation and needs.

The main types of counseling approaches are:

  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Behavior therapy
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Humanist therapy

Once again, this is not an exhaustive list of counseling strategies, but rather an overview of the most common general types. There are other strategies outside of these and other therapy approaches that may integrate multiple aspects of each.

Interpersonal Therapy

types of therapy approaches

Interpersonal therapy approaches are concerned with the relationships between people. These strategies are most commonly used in family counseling, couples counseling, or in group therapy settings. Interpersonal therapy explores how people express, communicate, trust, and connect with one another, and how this can be improved. Imago relationship therapy, the Gottman Method, and family systems therapy are examples of interpersonal therapy approaches.

Behavior Therapy

As the name implies, behavior therapy approaches focus on adapting and changing harmful behaviors. Counselors working with groups or individuals may employ behavioral therapy techniques. This includes techniques like relaxation training, social skills training, conditioning, and exposure therapy. Dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive behavior therapy are two examples of this approach.

Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy is similar to behavior therapy in many ways, and there is some overlap between them. Cognitive therapy strategies focus on thoughts, feelings and behaviors as connected patterns. Using cognitive therapy strategies, participants learn how to interrupt negative or racing thoughts, use mindfulness and meditation to assess and understand feelings, and how feelings interact with behaviors.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is one of the oldest types of therapy, and often the image that first comes to mind for many people. Though psychodynamic therapy has historic roots, it is not the most-used type of therapy, and may only be helpful in certain cases. Psychodynamic therapy deals with unconscious or subconscious thoughts and feelings that are outside of our awareness, and how these affect our lives. Psychodynamic therapy techniques may include dream analysis, studying early childhood experiences, free association writing or drawing, and some types of play therapy or art therapy.

Humanist Therapy

Humanist therapy is concerned with personal responsibility, personal agency, purpose and direction in one’s life. Many humanist therapy approaches emphasize self-awareness, and the importance of understanding one’s reasoning, actions, needs, and the power they have over their own lives. Gestalt therapy and existential therapy fall under the humanist therapy category.


Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of counseling available, you can work with your counselor to design the best therapy strategy for you. At Michigan Counseling Centers, we are experienced with a variety of counseling methods, and we can design a therapy program that best suits you.

Michigan Counseling Centers currently offer services in Bloomfield Hills and Taylor, and plan to expand our services to other communities. To inquire about or receive treatment, please contact us and we will follow up with you to schedule an initial consultation.