Supportive Counselling

Our rating
 2 smilies: This treatment is useful. It is supported by scientific evidence as effective, but the evidence is not as strong.

What is it?

In counselling, people talk about their problems with a health professional. Counselling relationships are respectful, caring and accepting.

Supportive counselling or person-centred therapy is one type of counselling. Supportive counsellors give support, listen to people and help them talk over their problems.

Some therapists combine supportive counselling with other methods of psychological treatment such as cognitive behaviour therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy.

How does it work?

Supportive counselling aims to help people feel deeply understood and supported so that their healing processes work better and they can find solutions to their problems. More information about supportive counselling for depression is available from the University College London's Counselling for Depression guide (PDF).

Is it effective?

Studies have found that supportive counselling is helpful for mild to moderate depression. However, it is not as effective as therapies which contain specific psychological techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

Are there any disadvantages?

Private counsellors and therapists can be expensive. However, free or low-cost counselling may be available. In Australia, Medicare may provide rebates for sessions with some therapists (see below).

Where do you get it?

Many health professionals can provide supportive counselling for depression. For example, counsellors, GPs, clinical psychologists, psychologists, social workers, nurses and psychiatrists may all provide counselling (see Psychologists and other therapists).

Some mental health organisations have specially trained volunteers who provide free counselling over the phone or over the internet. For example, counselling is available in many countries through crisis support services such as Lifeline or The Samaritans. Some Australian organisations that provide counselling are shown under National and State Help.


Supportive counselling can be helpful for depression. However, it may not be effective in the longer term. Supportive counselling is not as effective as other psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy or interpersonal therapy.

Key references

  • Cuijpers P, Driessen E, Hollon SD, van Oppen P, Barth J, Andersson G. The efficacy of non-directive supportive therapy for adult depression: A meta-analysis. Clin Psychol Rev. 2012; 32: 280–291.

Last reviewed and updated: 1 December 2016