There are innumerable theories of change in the field of counseling and psychology, and most of them are valid.  Generally change occurs when we seek to avoid pain and move toward happiness but there are different ways of conceptualizing this movement.  The great psychiatrist Irvin Yalom, and a founder in the field of psychology said that the mechanics of therapy shouldn't be a mystery, that we should explicitly discuss the process of therapy.  Toward this goal, let's briefly discuss the primary ways we might think about change during our time together:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is the most empirically validated theory of change that therapists use today.  That does not mean it is right agent of change for you.  CBT basically states that we often suffer from our fight-or-flight instincts.  While these instincts can protect us, they can also cause us distress in situations our instincts were not meant to handle. Distorted thoughts and perceptions cause us needless anxiety.  CBT addresses this anxiety and depression by examining unproductive beliefs thus reducing the consequences of depression and anxiety.
  • Existential Psychotherapy. Existential psychotherapy addresses the larger frameworks of the human existence and condition.  Like CBT, Existential psychotherapy reframes the particulars of our lives and struggles into larger structures of meaning to reduce distress.  While Existential psychotherapy is often correlated with religious beliefs, it is not the same thing and is an equally valid school of thought for any belief system, even atheists or agnostics. Generally there are four major pillars within this theory:
    • Freedom and Responsibility
    • Community and Isolation
    • Meaning and Meaninglessness
    • Living and Dying
  • Interpersonal Theory.  Also another major field developed by Yalom, Interpersonal theory examines the relationships between people to point to evidence of how we relate to ourselves.  This theory states that our distress can often be found in how we relate to other people.  In advanced interpersonal therapy, the relationship between the client and therapist is examined for these same patterns.