New Trends and Unconventional Techniques in Counselling Psychology: An Overview – part 1

Being an involving field psychology and its many schools often transform itself to suit the modern day human necessities. It is not an unknown fact that more often than not, patients or clients dread their therapy sessions and absence or irregularities in attending therapy sessions is a drawback in benefiting them. Psychologists and researchers have come up with innovative and creative alternatives to traditional therapy techniques to solve this issue and to possibly make therapy an interesting experience for both the therapist and the client.

One such techniques is Music Therapy, which includes the use of music in terms of listening, playing instruments, and singing as means of therapy. Another technique is Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) which includes dancing and sometimes the use of props in the dances and specially curated moves that facilitate relaxation and enable both mental and physical well being. Both these techniques are rich in its aesthetic value and can be followed by both those who are undergoing a mental health issue, and healthy people alike. This could also be initiated without many costs, however a proper location and a trained therapist is definitely a requirement as those who are educated only in either psychology or music or dancing alone cannot execute this technique. It requires therapists trained specifically in these therapy techniques to successfully and correctly administer this therapy form.

Another technique popularly used with children is Sand Play Therapy, in which a sand board is used on which different toys and symbols might be used representing different elements and characters in the child’s life. This technique has enabled children to easily build a rapport with and be comfortable around the therapist, specially when it comes to children with speech & communication issues and victims of abuse. It creates a friendly and familiar environment in which children are to engage in their favorite activity; playing. Children who have undergone a traumatic experience often have trouble in recalling and narrating the experience. However these children often re-enact such incidents while playing. Using this technique the therapist can observe and recognize the hidden meanings behind certain symbolic elements of the child’s play behavior which may denote such trauma the child may have undergone. Although not very popular, this technique can be and has also been used with adults.

Pet Therapy or Animal Assisted Therapy is currently increasing in popularity in many Western countries with an increasing number of hospitals and long-term care facilities hiring pet animals such as dogs, cats, hamsters, fish and any other domesticated or petting-friendly animals as the therapist. These animals undergo a special training programme and are carefully chosen and allocated to clients or patients taking into consideration their level of tolerance, temperament, training and the nature of the problem experienced by the patient. This has proved to be an effective method in dealing with patients with anxiety, depression and many such disorders and psychological stressors. It is often conducted in the form of petting the animal, playing with it, watching it, the animal performing certain tricks for the patient or simply just their presence alone has proven to have therapeutic qualities. A form of pet-assisted therapy has formed its on specialized technique called "Equine therapy" which used horses as therapy animals in dealing with patients. Patients engage in taking care of the horse, grooming it and riding it and also the horse is metaphorically used by the therapist in problem solving counseling (in which an underlying issue that is not psychological is solved resulting in overcoming the psychological stress caused by it.)

Another quite controversial technique of therapy is Psychedelic Therapy which includes the ingestion of a psychedelic drug to overcome issues such as tobacco addiction. This is a very questionable technique as one might think that it would create a new addiction to the psychedelic drug being used. Although this technique is not accepted as a standard technique it has proven to be effective in the small sample on which it was tested. However most of these drugs are illegal in many countries and might come with the risk of being misused for recreational purposes and others.

Bibliotherapy is perhaps a technique of therapy that can be initiated with ease even in Sri Lanka. It includes the use of certain exemplary and relatable books as means of therapy. The therapists and teachers alike can conduct this therapy by recommending books that advice on how to deal with certain challenges in life. This is widely used in school settings for example a bully might be recommended a book in the first person view point of a victim, that allows the bully to understand what the victim goes through. This is a simple non-aggressive technique of dealing with the issue of bullying in schools that does not necessarily punish the bully harshly, nor humiliate and corner the child which may only result in worse behavior. It promotes understanding between students and acceptance of differences.

Another set of such unconventional and new techniques of psychotherapy will be discussed in the next part of this article.

This article was sent in by Nalanga Hettiarachchi. She is a final year undergraduate, majoring in Psychology at University of Peradeniya. You can reach her via Email.

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