Counseling is a process where a trained mental health professional helps individuals, couples or families resolve the issues and challenges that they might be facing. Counseling can provide vital support to those who are struggling and help them develop coping skills as well. When it comes to approaches in counselling, two popular approaches stand out. They are directive and non-directive counselling. While both approaches are aimed at helping clients, there are various differences between the two. Understanding these differences is crucial to deciding which one fits your needs the best.  

Directive Counseling

  The directive style of counselling was founded by E.G. Williamson.  It is a style of therapy where the therapist or counsellor takes an active role in the counselling process. In this approach, the counsellor is in charge of the process. They decide how the sessions will go and also make key decisions regarding the general pace and direction of the whole process. That is why it is sometimes also called prescriptive counseling. In this approach, the counselor typically leads the conversation, asks the client specific questions, and may even make a few suggestions based on the client’s issues. In this process, clients usually focus on implementing the suggestions given by the counselor   Directive counseling is helpful in situations where clients need a clear course of action and are unable to make decisions on their own. Thus, this approach can be particularly useful in educational and vocational settings. This approach can be extremely structured and less time-consuming as well. However, this approach has the potential to make the client dependent on the counsellor as the counsellor is seen as more of an authority figure than a collaborator.   

Non-Directive Counseling

  The non-directive approach to counselling was discovered by Carl Rogers. It is also known as person-centred counseling. This approach assumes that every human being is rational and realistic and that they can reach their full potential if they are given a supportive environment. In this approach, the client sets the agenda for the process, while the therapist acts as a follower. The role of the therapist in this approach is to play a supportive role and provide the client with a safe and empathetic environment to explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The client also takes an active role in setting goals for the process The overall goal of the process is to build self-awareness within the client through insight and reflection.   Non-directive counseling emphasises the power and potential of humans and can be helpful in situations where clients are looking to make long-term changes and personality growth. In a sense, this approach focuses on empowering the clients and making them more independent through self-awareness, insight and realization, while the therapist acts as a support.  

How Do The Two Approaches Differ?

  The table given below illustrates the differences between the two styles of Counseling  
Aspect Directive Counseling Non-Directive Counseling
Counsellor’s Role The counsellor acts as an authority figure and takes an active role in counseling The counsellor acts as a supportive figure and lets the client take the lead
Goal Setting  Counsellor and client collaborate on specific goals Goals are set based on self-discovery and the needs of the client
Client’s Role Receives guidance and direction The client engages in self-exploration and discovery
Problem-Solving Counselor provides advice and strategies The client explores solutions through reflection


While both directive and non-directive approaches are aimed at helping clients, there are significant differences between them. While the directive approach is more useful in educational settings, the non-directive approach can facilitate long-term changes. Most modern therapists use a combination of directive and non-directive counseling, based on the needs of the client  


  1. Directive and Non Directive Counselling – Child guidance and counselling. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2024, from
  2. Explain directive and non-directive counselling. (n.d.). Abstract Classes. Retrieved March 14, 2024, from
  3. Perks and Effectiveness of Non-Directive Therapy | ICSW. (n.d.). ICSW. Retrieved March 14, 2024, from
Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin