Types of Interventions in Counseling

Counseling is a wonderful and valuable tool in treating all kinds of mental health disorders and substance addictions. One of the best things about the use of counseling as a therapy modality is that there are many different methods and variations that can be employed to help patients, and they can be tailored to each patient’s needs and treatment goals. These types of tools are called counseling interventions. Here are some examples of common counseling interventions and approaches that can reap benefits and produce lasting and profound change for patients.

Behavioral Interventions

According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, “Behavioral counseling interventions in clinical care are those activities delivered by primary care clinicians and related health care staff to assist patients in adopting, changing or maintaining behaviors proven to affect health outcomes and health status.” 

These interventions help patients modify damaging, unhealthy behaviors by offering comprehensive care—the interventions can be delivered by many different types of professionals, in many kinds of ways, and are supplemented by resources and consistent interfacing with patients in order to help them find success adhering to the newly modified behaviors. This can take many forms, such as a doctor advising a patient on how to modify diet and exercise habits to decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, or a school counselor helping a child learn positive strategies to eliminate disruptive or problematic behavior in the classroom. 

The goal with these interventions is to strengthen positive behaviors while at the same time reducing the frequency and intensity of behaviors that aren’t beneficial. It’s best for patients to look at just a couple of behaviors at one time, in order to make it easier to take action and not feel overwhelmed by trying to change too many habits at once. Behavioral intervention strategies can include positive visualization, where a patient imagines a situation and the desired behavior or learning communications skills to improve certain behaviors. Behavior interventions can be appropriate for patients of all ages with a wide variety of problematic issues; they are also often used in schools and other settings to help children focus and perform better in class and get along with others on the playground, as well as address certain disorders.

Affective Interventions

Unlike behavioral interventions that address a patient’s actions, these kinds of interventions focus on a patient’s feelings. With effective interventions, patients who grapple with overly strong feelings can identify and express those emotions properly, and learn how to manage them. 

In one exercise, therapists can give patients a list of various emotions (fear, anger, happiness, etc.) and ask them to take an inventory of the predominant feelings experienced over a particular period of time. Patients can also help parse and identify emotions by making a chart or graph of them to see which ones are most prevalent. These types of interventions can help patients see how different emotions may be interrelated; allow patients to take responsibility for their emotions and communicate them properly. Patients can also better understand how certain situations or relationships trigger particular emotions, and learn how to use coping techniques to better navigate those situations. Because patients are encouraged to practice self-acceptance, therapists model acceptance of the patients and their emotions, free of judgment. As patients get a better understanding of their emotions and how to handle them, they gain clarity on their own sense of self and can move forward in life. 

Cognitive Interventions

This type of psychological intervention is geared toward those people who are too caught up in their own thoughts, specifically negative or erroneous ones. Troublesome thought patterns can dictate a person’s actions and how they live their lives, and therefore take away a person’s own agency. In these cases, it is imperative to replace those negative thoughts with positive ones that can transform a patient’s beliefs, self-image, and outlook on life. In essence, these thoughts govern every aspect of a patient’s life—thoughts, feelings and actions.

Perhaps the most common form of cognitive intervention is found in cognitive behavioral therapy, also called CBT. In this therapeutic model, the counselor works with patients to deconstruct the harmful thought patterns and break the negative connections that have formed in their minds regarding certain situations and issues. This can involve the patient taking an in-depth look at certain emotions, behaviors, and thoughts and getting at the root cause of them, as well as identifying how they create a kind of domino effect and govern how a person lives their life. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a very popular and very common type of therapeutic modality and there are several related activities patients and counselors can engage in. For instance, patients can keep a journal that tracks their thoughts to identify potential triggers and situations where these thoughts tend to occur. Patients can also work with therapists to identify different types of negative thought patterns. For instance, catastrophizing patients tend to anticipate the worst will happen to them in a given situation, leaving them paralyzed with inaction and fear. Other patients may negatively label their behavior, painting themselves with a too-broad brush. If they don’t get a job, they don’t look at it as an isolated incident, but rather a referendum on how they are an overall failure as a person. And all-or-nothing patients view everything in black and white, and anything less than perfection is an utter disaster. 

With the help of a counselor, patients can learn how to accept circumstances to reduce anxiety, evaluate specific worries and fears to identify if they are in fact justified and understand that their anxiety may not be rooted in fact. If the anxiety is so intense that it affects a patient’s daily life, interventions may include carving out time for the things a patient enjoys but may be avoiding due to heavy anxiety or depression, as well as introducing limited exposure to situations that make a patient anxious. With the former, the goal is to participate in rewarding activities that will encourage a more positive mindset and outlook, while the latter can help reduce fear by helping the patients understand the situation isn’t as bad as they feared it would be. Some patients may also benefit from the practice of clearing the brain of thoughts (both good and bad) through mindfulness practices such as meditation. Instead of worrying about the future or feeling anxious about the past, patients who practice mindfulness can stay focused on the present and get centered. A therapist may use multiple cognitive interventions to help patients achieve the desired results.

How to Find the Right Counseling Interventions

Every person is different when it comes to treatment, and no two plans may look alike. There are several factors at work when determining the type of therapeutic modality that should be used with a patient, including what type of mental health disorder they are struggling with, the patient’s own treatment goals and whether they are also grappling with a co-occurring substance abuse or eating disorder, among other things.

At Casa Palmera, our goal is whole-person healing; we go below the surface of a presenting problem to determine what is at the root of it, and address that cause so that it doesn’t manifest itself in other ways. We are not looking for a temporary fix, but a lifelong solution to problems that are preventing you from living your best and healthiest life. We do this by developing an individualized treatment plan for you that integrates the most beneficial counseling interventions for your specific needs, as well as tools that will improve your life on a holistic level, encompassing areas ranging from nutrition and physical fitness to relationships and spirituality. Learn more about our treatment philosophies and see how Casa Palmera’s programs can help you transform your mind, and your life.