Counselling Theories Compared and Contrasted

Counselling Theories Compared and Contrasted

In this section, we are going to look at three different forms of counselling, how they compare and how they differ.

The first thing to consider is that all counsellors, no matter which model of counselling they practise, should offer the core conditions discussed in the section on person-centred therapy.

The main difference is that transactional analysis and REBT counsellors use additional techniques, whereas person-centred therapists believe that the core conditions are not only necessary but also sufficient for the client to heal themselves.

In the grid below, you will see how the therapies compare

Person-centred Transactional analysis REBT
Carl Rogers Eric Berne Albert Ellis
Humanistic school Psychodynamic school Behavioural school
Here and now Presenting past How we think
Counsellor believes the client is an expert on themselves and helps the client gain self-acceptance Counsellor is an ‘expert’ and helps the client to realise how childhood experiences affect their life today Counsellor is an ‘expert’ and helps the client to think more rationally about life
Believes that humans can self-heal if the core conditions are in place The basis of the model is parent, adult and child ego states The basis of the model is action, belief and consequence
Core conditions are
necessary and sufficient
Core conditions are desirable Core conditions are desirable
The relationship between the client and the counsellor is the most important aspect of the therapy succeeding Counsellor teaches techniques, sets homework and uses worksheets to aid the therapy Counsellor teaches techniques, sets  homework and uses worksheets to aid the therapy

Compared and Contrasted Person Centred with REBT and TA

Transactional analysis (TA), REBT and Person-Centred therapy are three modalities of psychotherapy with their roots in different theoretical schools; TA is psychoanalytical, REBT is behavioural therapy, and person-centred therapy is a humanistic modality.

In this article, we will look at each of these three modalities and pay attention to the key similarities and differences between them.

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Compare and Contrast Theories

Transactional Analysis – An Overview

  • Developed by Eric Berne (1910 – 1970).
  • TA’s theoretical model is based on how we interact with each other. Berne identified three ego states – Parent, Adult and Child – which we communicate from in our interactions with others. He believed our relational difficulties relate to the ego state we respond from.
  • TA is an analytical therapy which seeks to analyse the behaviour of the client.
  • Transactional analysis is an active directive modality – helping clients to understand their process and learn ways to manage it. The therapist takes the role of ‘expert’ in the relationship.

REBT – An Overview

  • Developed by Albert Ellis (1913 – 2007).
  • REBT is based on the principle that it is possible to change patterns of thinking and look a given situation from different perspectives. Challenging the client’s perception of themselves and their situation is at the core of REBT.
  • REBT is active directive – teaching clients to view their situations differently, to understand their own processes and develop tools for managing it.

Person-Centred Therapy – An Overview

  • Developed by Carl Rogers (1902 – 1987).
  • PCT is based on the concept that everybody has the potential for therapeutic movement when empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard are offered in the relationship.
  • The person-centred approach is non-directive, believing that the client’s innate actualising tendency is sufficient for change and growth when the necessary and sufficient conditions are met in the relationship.
  • Person-centred therapy is not a taught model, and instead focuses on a deep, connected relationship between therapist and client.

Key Similarities and Differences between the Modalities


  • Talking therapies – All three modalities are talking therapies, using dialogue between therapist and client to effect change.
  • Taught models – Both TA and REBT actively teach clients using a theoretical model, and offer tools and strategies to manage their process. In contrast, Person-centred therapy does not directly teach the client.
  • Directivity – Both TA and REBT are active directive modalities, while Person-centred therapy is intrinsically non-directive.
  • Working with the ‘here-and-now’ – Both person-centred therapy and REBT are concerned with what is happening in the here-and-now. TA, as a psychoanalytic therapy, is more likely to focus on past experiences and relationships.
  • View of the core conditions – REBT and TA therapists generally view the core conditions as necessary, but not sufficient for therapeutic change. These modalities offer additional, more directive interventions to bring about movement in the client’s process. Person-centred therapists, however, believe that the conditions are both necessary and sufficient for change to occur.

Differences – Individual characteristics of the three modalities:

Transactional Analysis:

  • Has a basis in the more medically-oriented psychoanalytic school of therapy.
  • Understands relational interactions through the lens of the Parent-Adult-Child model.
  • Works with how the past impacts on here-and-now relating.


  • Scientific approach to understanding human behaviour.
  • Challenges cognitive distortions (irrational thinking).
  • Offers tools to help clients identify unhelpful thoughts and change their perception of self and their situation.

Person-centred Therapy:

  • A philosophical approach to therapy which emphasises the phenomenological perspective of the client.
  • A non-directive approach to therapy.
  • Therapist uses self as a tool of therapy – focus on developing a therapeutic relationship with the client.
  • In person-centred therapy, the core conditions are understood to be both necessary and sufficient.


This article was written for Counselling Tutor by Erin Stevens

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Compare and Contrast Theories