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We have put together a glossary of all the most common terms that are used on the website. Let us know if there are any others that you would like to be added.

  • Cognitive behaviour theory (CBT)
  • Countertransference
  • Experiential
  • Object relations theory
  • Psychodynamic
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Psychoanalytic psychotherapy
  • Supervision
  • Unconscious

Cognitive behaviour theory (CBT)

This group of theories is concerned with how thinking and feeling is dominated by patterns which in turn dominate our choice of actions. A CBT therapist will identify patterns of thinking and belief linked to feelings which may be contributing to emotional distress and troubling behaviour. A CBT therapist will help the client develop new ways of thinking and behaving which can have a positive effect on mood and ability to cope with life’s challenges.


This term mainly refers to the counsellor’s or psychotherapist’s response to the transference from the client.  Reflecting on countertransference can help the counsellor or psychotherapist understand what it is like to be the client in terms of the thoughts and feelings they evoke. As such it is a valuable tool, but one which must be used with care and discernment.


Learning through doing. Ideas, skills and techniques are best assimilated through experience. This is facilitated in seminars, group work, supervised clinical work and personal therapy.

Object Relations Theory

This refers to a whole area of theory that explores the capacity and need of human beings to relate, as well as how they relate to themselves and others. It involves the idea that our current relationships are influenced by our experience of past relationships, especially those with parents, siblings, grandparents and other important figures in early life.


The term psychodynamic refers to the process by which patterns of experience that have been experienced in infancy and childhood are dynamically, and unconsciously, repeated in the client’s internal world and also in present day relationships, including with the counsellor or therapist.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy

The central principle of psychodynamic psychotherapy is that distress in the present has been caused by events in early like of which we are no longer aware. The therapy offers a reliable setting for the client to explore associations, memories, fantasies, feelings and dreams to do with the past and present.

Particular attention is given to the interaction with the therapist and establishing a therapeutic relationship is of primary importance. This involves fostering an atmosphere which is respectful of personal difficulties and which pays careful attention to what is said. Human beings have a tendency to repeat patterns of behaviour, even why they would like to change them and these patterns may repeat themselves in the relationship with the therapist. The understanding of, and working with, such repetition is referred to as working in the transference, a central element in the psychodynamic process.

Understanding is also facilitated by the therapist paying attention to his/her response to the client, in other words, using his/her countertransference. In this way, the client may achieve new and better resolutions of long-standing conflicts and difficulties.

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy

A more intense way of working with clients, for example 3 times per week, and usually with the use of the couch. The psychoanalytic psychotherapist makes use of this more intense and immediate relationship and the experience of the transference and countertransference to enable the patient to gain awareness and understanding of their internal world, their unconscious, their patterns of relating, defences and the aspects of themselves which are yet to be expressed.

In addition it involves the analysis of the unconscious meaning of the words and actions of the client and an investigation of the mental processes involved in order to enable the client to gain insight and awareness.


The process by which counsellors and psychotherapists bring their clinical work to be discussed with a supervisor (a more senior practitioner who has been trained as supervisor) in order to gain insight and awareness about the client and the dynamics of the work and develop their own learning and understanding.


Psychodynamic theory asserts that we are influenced by thoughts, wishes, desires, fantasies and other mental processes, of which we are unaware, or which are unconscious.  Being able to bring unconscious mental processes into conscious awareness is seen as a key way of helping a person to make freer choices in life.