While many of us were transfixed by Robin Williams' masterful portrayal of Dr. Sean Maguire opposite Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, or Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson in the US Series Mr. Robot, the reality of the counselling room is seldom as intense. As issues arise, in your own time they are carefully explored. They are hardly ever wrapped up in a neat 90 minute timeframe.
Even so, this kind of counselling can be very effective. It is known as Person-Centred Counselling. The therapist acts in a non-directive fashion: listening with empathy, encouraging and challenging the client where appropriate. The idea is to get to the root of mental health issues and to allow the client to better understand themselves and find solutions which best suit their own situation.
This is not the only approach to counselling. The NHS will often refer patients for a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT. The idea behind CBT is that a change in the client's behaviours will train the mind into better thinking patterns. These new thinking patterns will then generate improved feelings, which in turn reinforce changed behaviours.
Additionally, there are many alternative therapies offered by different groups and individuals. From Reiki - a Japanese technique involving "laying on hands" - to hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, acupuncture and meditation, many of these are influenced by Eastern philosophies.
Recently, there has been a good deal of interest in Animal-assisted therapies (AAT), to help with conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Dementia and Autism. Examples of AAT would be Canine-assisted therapy and Equine-related therapy.
It is important to note that not all counsellors are trained, qualified or insured. There are currently no legal stipulations as to who may practice as a therapist in the UK. It is important that any potential client understands the type of therapy they require, and is comfortable with the level of knowledge, experience and professional oversight of their counselling situation.