Glossary of Common Counseling Terms and Reference Guide

This reference guide can help to understand, define, or learn more about specific terms that are utilized on this website, as well as many other counseling websites. This is not a complete list of counseling terms, but these are common terms used in the field.

LGBT or GLBT: Acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender or Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender.

Homosexuality: A term used to describe same-sex attractions. This term is most often considered derogatory and outdated because of its history as the term used to describe same-sex attractions when they were considered to be psychological disorder.

Affirming or Affirmative: A term used to recognize and accept peoples’ sexuality or orientation.

Homophobia: Fear of a sexual orientation that is different than that which is heterosexual or “straight”.

LGBT Counseling: Counseling Specific to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community. This should be done by a counselor who is gay-affirming. The counselor or therapist should not advertise or endorse therapy that tries to convert sexual orientation or gender identity. This is unethical and often considered to be harmful. Some therapists will say that they offer counseling to the LGBT population, but do not necessarily have any specific experience helping clients who are part of the transgender community. Therefore, if you are part of the transgender community, it is important to make sure that your counselor has experience, would be comfortable discussing issues specific to transgender individuals, and that you would feel comfortable with this counselor as well.

Transgender: A term used to describe an gender expression that is different than traditional gender roles. This may include gender identification with the opposite gender, identification with both gender roles, or a lack of identification with gender roles altogether.

Addiction: Addiction is often considered to be an equivalent to the DSM criteria for dependence. There is an overall lack of ability to manage the behavior. The behavior is not always compulsive, and there may be short periods of being able to control the behavior, or specific situations where the behavior can be controlled. There is a range of periods of serious abuse to constant abuse.

Sex Addiction: Sexual behavior that is either causing an emotional disturbance, or is harmful to the person, or both. The problems in sexual behavior are often rooted in problems with attachment.

Moderation Management: An attempt at controlling substance use, rather than committing to complete abstinence. People learn to moderate their use, and create plans to keep themselves from problematic situations. Not recommended for those who are dependent on a substance.

Emotional Abuse: Manipulation by a perpetrator to emotionally hurt another person. Unlike more concrete types of abuse like sexual and physical abuse, this type of abuse can vary from person to person.

Counselor Theoretical Orientation/Therapy or Counseling Techniques: This is type of theoretical orientation that a counselor is utilizing to help clients. Counselors may switch between specific theories to help clients deal with different circumstances, because certain theories have been shown to be more effective in different situations.

CBT: An acronym for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT helps people create an internal dialogue to improve their self-talk skills to better walk through difficult situations.

REBT: An acronym for Rational Emotive Therapy. REBT is similar to CBT, but it is a more structured approach to therapy. Clients often use a written format to identify problematic thinking, and determine how this thinking makes that client feel and behave in a certain way. Problematic thinking is then debated by the client to make it more rational.

Solution-Focused Therapy: A type of therapy that is used to help people deal with the current solutions and problems in their lives. It focuses more on the present, than the past. This style of therapy is often more brief than other styles.

Motivational Interviewing: This is not necessarily therapy, but is a technique used by therapists to help meet the client where (s)he is at in the Stages of Change model. Some clients are not yet ready to change. Thus, in this situation, the counselor will help clients move to the next stage of change, rather than where the therapist would like the client to be.

Eclectic Therapy Style: This refers to a therapy style where a counselor pulls from various orientations to help a client. Most modern therapists use an eclectic approach to some degree. However, many therapists identify with an orientation that they are most skilled at utilizing.

CSAT: An acronym for a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist. These therapists receive special training on sex addiction, and what the underlying issues of sex addiction are. Training is provided with Dr. Patrick Carnes, amongst many other leaders in the field.

Sex Therapy: Sex therapy is a type of therapy that helps a couple or individual deal with issues relating to sexual dysfunction.

Couples Counseling/Marriage Counseling: This is a type of counseling that helps couples improve on communication and rebuild their relationship. Clear relationship goals are identified, boundaries are established, and new skills are taught to help with relationship deficits.

Relapse Prevention: A type of therapy used to help clients who have maintained a significant amount of abstinence to continue to abstain. Clients learn to identify triggers to potential relapsing and create plans to deal with these triggers. May also include rebuilding aspects of life that have been damaged, lost, or forgotten.

Codependency: A role that is used to control another person’s behavior. Although this role is one that is based in good intentions, it also often includes poor boundaries.

Boundaries: Personal limitations in regards to other people outside of the self. These can range from loose to rigid boundaries. It is ideal to be in the middle of these two extremes.

Transference: Feelings that emerge in a present situation that are based on a past experience or experiences.

Intimacy: An interpersonal relationship that is often confused with sex.

Depression: A basic emotion used to describe a wide range of symptoms used to describe a mood that is down.

Anxiety: A basic emotion used to describe a wide range of moods that are associated with being keyed up.

Defense mechanisms: Unconscious coping strategies that are used to deal with emotional pain. Range from healthy to unhealthy.

Self-esteem: How you feel about yourself.

Self-image: How you see yourself.

Avoidance: A defense mechanism used to cope with a stressor.

Non-monogamy: a term used to describe a wide range of relationship agreements and structures where there are more than 2 people in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship.