Counselling Techniques

Study Counselling Techniques for therapists by distance learning. Develop your understanding of the approaches to and application of counselling theories and techniques.

Course CodeBPS206
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Learn how you can use counselling techniques to help people

There are a range of different coping and damage-repair systems that appear to operate on a psychological level.

Learning may influence these patterns, they appear to operate automatically. The most common ones include – 

  • Talking – People who have undergone a traumatic or hurtful experience often show the need to repetitively tell others about the experience as a way of reducing tension and allowing themselves to become desensitized to their experience. 
  • Crying – Crying is a common way to deal with emotional hurt and tension in adults and children.  
  • Laughing – Viewing hurts with humour and trying to joke about them and laugh them off can alleviate emotional tension.  
  • Support Seeking – When we are stressed, adults and individuals make seek support and protection from others. 
  • Dreams – Individuals who have had traumatic experiences such as fire, crashes, etc. may report repeated dreams or nightmares as they relive the traumatic experience.  This appears to be desensitizing the individual to their painful experience. 

These reactions vary according to the situation, nature of the traumatic event and the individual.  Other mechanisms of protection are known as ego-defence mechanisms.  

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy l - Freud, Erikson, Jung
    • Value and relevance of psychotherapy
    • Emergence of psychoanalytical theory
    • Principles of psychoanalytical theory
    • Elements of the personality
    • The notion of conscious and unconscious
    • Anxiety and psychoanalysis
    • Inbuilt psychological coping and damage repair mechanisms
    • Defence mechanisms
    • Freud's psycho-sexual theory and Erikson's psychosocial theory
    • Jung's perspective on personality
    • Archetypes
    • Recent developments in psychoanalytical theory
    • Goals of psychoanalytical approach
    • Psychoanalytic techniques
    • Analytic framework
    • Free associations
    • Interpretation
    • Dream analysis
    • Resistance
    • Transference
    • Psychoanalytic approach and counselling
    • Personality disorders
    • Critique for psychoanalytic theory
  2. Psychoanalytical psychotherapy ll - Adler
    • Alfred Adler
    • Adler's key concepts
    • Inferiority vs superiority
    • What makes people self interested
    • Social interest and community feeling
    • Individual psychology
    • Psychological types: ruling type, leaning type, avoiding type
    • Sibling relationships
    • Only child
    • First child, second child, youngest child
    • Use of Adlerian theory
    • Applications to counselling
    • Freud and Adler
    • Critique
  3. Humanistic/Existential approaches I - Gestalt Therapy; Fritz Perls
    • Introduction
    • Human nature
    • Holistic approach
    • Field theory
    • Figure-formation process
    • Organismic self-regulation
    • Focus on the present
    • Resolving dilemmas
    • Personal maturity
    • The effect of contact
    • Effect of energy
    • The experiment
    • Confrontation
    • Gestalt techniques: Internal dialogue, reversal, rehearsal, exaggeration, dream work, etc.
    • Critique
  4. Humanistic/Existential approaches II - Person-Centred Counselling; Carl Rogers
    • Humanistic therapy
    • Principles of person centred approach
    • Personal attitude of the counsellor
    • Goals of therapy
    • Assessment techniques
    • Areas of application
    • Critique
  5. Rational behavioural therapy - Albert Ellis
    • Rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT
    • Ellis's view of human nature
    • Personality theory
    • Goals and techniques of therapy
    • Therapeutic techniques
    • Cognitive techniques
    • Emotive techniques
    • Use of REBT
    • Critique
  6. Cognitive behavioural therapy - Aaron Beck
    • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and REBT
    • Premises of CBT
    • Cognitive distortions
    • Use of cognitive therapy
    • Family therapy
    • Modifications to CBT
    • Stress innoculation training program (SIT)
    • Stages of SIT
    • Constructivist modification
  7. Behavioural therapy
    • Contemporary behavioural therapy
    • Behavioural approach
    • Goals and techniques
    • Goals of therapy
    • Use of behaviour therapy
    • Basic ID
    • Critique
  8. Solution-focused counselling
    • Introduction
    • Strategies in solution focussed counselling
    • Engaging the client
    • Constructing pathways for change
    • Generating creative solutions
    • Critique

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

What You Will Do

  • Explain the principal differences between Adlerian and Freudian theory, the key concepts of Adlerian theory, and the 4 stages of the Adlerian counselling process.
  • Understand the chief elements of the Gestalt approach, to discuss resolution of problems and to describe different effects and techniques of Gestalt therapy.
  • Delineate the person-centred approach to counselling; to understand its principles, goals, assessment techniques and appropriate application.
  • Explain Albert Ellis’s views and the evolution of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), the stages involved in developing a rational philosophy of life, and the different techniques used by REBT’s.
  • Discuss the differences between Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and REBT, to define the main ‘cognitive distortions’, and to demonstrate an awareness of modifications to CBT
  • Develop an appreciation of the characteristics of contemporary behavioural therapy and different problem-solving techniques adopted by behavioural therapists.
  • Explain the role of solution-focused counselling in modern therapy and the strategies used to generate solutions.
  • Explain the concept of dream analysis.
  • Describe Erikson's modification to traditional psychoanalytical theory .
  • Explain an object-relations interpretation of the origin of ‘narcissistic’ and ‘borderline’ personality disorders.
  • Explain the difference between Freudian and Adlerian theory.
  • Define the key concepts of Adlerian theory including: personality, goals and lifestyle.
  • Explain the concept of superiority v inferiority.
  • Describe the 4 stages of the Adlerian counselling process, i.e: -developing the counselling relationship; -exploring the individual; -encouraging self-awareness; -re-education.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of Adlerian therapy as applied to the counselling process.
  • Define Gestalt therapy.
  • Explain the importance of elements of human nature to the Gestalt approach.
  • Discuss ways in which dilemmas can be resolved using the Gestalt approach.
  • Explain the ‘effect of contact’ and the ‘effect of energy’.
  • Discuss the use of confrontation.
  • Describe different techniques of Gestalt therapy.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of Gestalt therapy as applied to the counselling process.
  • Define person-centred counselling.
  • Outline the principles of the person-centred approach.
  • Discuss how the impact of the counselling process is assessed.
  • Discuss suitable areas of application.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of the person-centred approach as applied to the counselling process.
  • Define REBT.
  • Explain Ellis’ views on ‘human nature’.
  • Describe Ellis’ theory of personality.
  • Discuss the stages involved in developing a rational philosophy of life.
  • Describe different techniques used by REBT’s.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of REBT as applied to the counselling process.
  • Discuss the differences between CBT and REBT.
  • Outline the main ‘cognitive distortions’ as set out in CBT.
  • Discuss the goals of CBT.
  • Describe modifications to CBT (known as CBM).
  • Outline the 3 phases involved in CBT.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of CBT as applied to the counselling process.
  • Define the main characteristics of behavioural therapy.
  • Describe different techniques of behavioural therapy including: -relaxation training; -systematic desensitisation; -exposure therapies; -assertion training.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of behavioural therapy as applied to the counselling process.
  • Define solution-focused counselling.
  • Describe how to engage the client.
  • Describe how questions are used to construct pathways for change.
  • Discuss strategies used to generate creative solutions.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of solution-focused therapy to the counselling process.

Defence Mechanisms

Many people employ defence mechanisms; often subconsciously; when confronted with psychological problems. Defence mechanisms may either distort or refuse to acknowledge reality.  They always operate on an unconscious level.  Resistances or defences mechanisms are carefully noted by analysts as they are assumed to signal sensitive or ego-threatening areas. 

It helps for a counsellor to be able to recognise and understand defence mechanisms, when they are employed. The main ones that have been observed are as follows:

1. Repression

Repression is a very important self-defence mechanism as it allows protection from sudden traumatic events, until the individual becomes desensitized to the shock.  Repression can help the individual to control unacceptable or dangerous desires, allowing time to alleviate anxiety about these desires.  Hurtful or threatening thoughts are repressed from consciousness.  This involves repressing the chaotic desires of the id into the unconscious realm. Often these repressed desires will still find expression in dreams, slips of the tongue or psychopathological symptoms.

2. Sublimation

This involves transferring life and death impulses into things that are more socially acceptable, e.g. art, sport.   This involves establishing a secondary socially acceptable goal which can be satisfied instead of satisfying the primary (original) goal.  Example: An excessively aggressive person might satisfy his desire to kill by joining the army where it can be socially acceptable to kill.

3. Projection

This means projecting one’s own negative desires and impulses onto someone else.  This is a particular form of rationalisation. It involves projecting our own undesirable characteristics onto someone else. Example: You feel an irrational hatred toward someone else, and you go around telling people that the person concerned hates you.

4. Intellectualisation

This is where a person seeks to explain their behaviour in ways that seem more acceptable and they are able to avoid the emotional content.  This involves detaching oneself from deep emotions about an issue by dealing with it in abstract and intellectual terms.

5. Denial

This is similar to repression, but operates at a preconscious or conscious level.  This involves simply denying that a situation or emotion is real (simple but extreme!). This is a defence most frequently employed by people who have lost loved ones: they go through a period of refusing to believe that it is true.

6. Rationalisation

This is a means of explaining away behaviours by suggesting an alternate and logical reason.  This is when we pretend to have a socially acceptable reason for a form of behaviour that is actually rooted in irrational feelings. Example: A person is angry with their mother and wants to avoid her. They construct a false reason for not going to visit her (e.g. It is too far away).   It is justifying maladaptive behaviour by using faulty logic.

7. Reaction formation

This is where the individual behaves or advocates views that are the complete opposite to what they really think or feel.  This involves unconsciously covering up what you really feel by behaving in the opposite manner, without realising it. Example: A woman who could not obtain an abortion might harbour a lot of hatred towards her child, and unconsciously still want to get rid of it. Instead, she behaves lovingly and-over protective to the child to an excessive degree.

8. Displacement

This refers to when a person directs and expresses their impulses and feelings toward a less threatening target.  This involves displacement of a disturbing emotion such as anger, from one person to another – a shift of symbolic meaning or emotion from a person to whom it was originally directed to another person. Displacement reduces anxiety produced by the unacceptable wish, but at the same time it partially gratifies that wish. The basic emotion of irrational anger toward a parent (for example) cannot be removed. The individual will instead direct this anger toward another less important, less threatening person.  For example, an office worker may not be able to display their anger to their manager, so they will go home and take it out on their partner. 

9. Regression

This is where people revert back to a time that was more comfortable for them and cling to behaviours that they exhibited at this point in their life.  For example, if a new baby comes to a family, an older child may revert to more infantile behaviour, such as wetting the bed, wanting a bottle. 

10. Identification

Although this can be positive from a developmental point of view, it can also be used to give the individual a sense of self-worth and protection from failure. Identification may take place in imitative learning, such as a girl identifying with her mother and using her as a model.  It can also act as a defence mechanism in enhancing feelings of worth and protection of the individual against self-devaluation. If feelings of adequacy or worth are too heavily based on identification with others, individuals may be highly vulnerable to stressful situations.  

11. Introjection

This occurs when an individual takes in and incorporates the values of another into their personality.  (It can be positive e.g. good parental influences.)  Introjection is closely related to identification.  As a defence reaction it involves accepting other people’s values and norms even when they are contrary to their own previous assumptions.  People may internalise the values and norms prescribed by society, so that they can avoid behaviour that will result in social retaliation and punishment. 

12. Compensation

This happens when a person hides weaknesses by developing positive traits.  Compensations are defences against feelings of inferiority or inadequacy.  They may take many forms and represent constructive behaviour as a person attempts to overcome difficulties e.g. a person who found it hard to learn to talk becoming an excellent orator or an unattractive boy developing a very pleasing personality.  

13. Emotional insulation

The individual reduces their emotional involvement in situations that they think are disappointing and hurtful. Usually people learn to keep their anticipations and hopes in check as there are many disappointments in life.  In case hoped for events don’t happen, they are careful to avoid celebrating to avoid letting their hopes get too high.

14. Atonement 

Atonement is designed to negate or annul a disapproved thought or action.  Apologising for wrong, repenting and doing penance are ways of undoing. Children may learn that if they apologise or are punished for bad behaviour, that they can start over again without a clean slate and renewed parental approval.  Consequently, people commonly learn methods of atoning or undoing their misdeeds, as ways to avoid punishment or self-devaluation. 

15. Acting out

Acting out is a way that individual acts to reducing tension and anxiety when associated with dangerous desires by actually permitting them to be expressed.  For example, a person may feel they are mistreated and discriminated against, so they may physically lash out, commit violence etc.

Why Study This Course?

Counselling has evolved from the theories and ideas of a number of influential practitioners. Many of these key contributors have emerged from different perspectives and schools of thought. Each has its merits and each offers the possibility of a working ideology and framework for graduates of counselling and psychotherapy. Understanding these different approaches allows students to make their own mind up about the relative advantages and disadvantages of each and what techniques and procedures they wish to adopt in their own work.

This course is intended to be of particular interest in people working in, or interested in working in:

  • Counselling
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychology
  • Health professions
  • Caring roles
  • Teaching
  • Research


You can enrol on the course at any time. If you have any questions or want to know more - phone us today on (in Australia) 07 5562 1088 or (International) +61 7 5562 1088,

Or - submit your questions to our expert Psychology tutors.

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Lyn Quirk

M.Prof.Ed.; Adv.Dip.Compl.Med (Naturopathy); Adv.Dip.Sports Therapy Over 30 years as Health Club Manager, Fitness Professional, Teacher, Coach and Business manager in health, fitness and leisure industries. As business owner and former department head fo
Jacinda Cole

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Jacinda has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psycholo
Tracey Jones

B.Sc. (Psych), M.Soc.Sc., Dip.Social Work, P.G.Dip Learning Disability, Cert Editing, Cert Creative Writing, PGCE. Member British Psychological Society, Member Assoc. for Coaching, Member British Learning Assoc. 25 years industry experience in writing,
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