Useful acronyms and abbreviations used in counselling and psychotherapy

A jumble of wooden typeset letters and numbers spread out across a wooden board, to represent the confusing array of abbreviations used in counselling and psychotherapy
Photo by Amador Loureiro

There are a lot of abbreviations and acronyms used in the world of psychology and counselling. Sometimes, you may encounter these when looking at therapist profiles or when doing some research about psychotherapy.

Abbreviations can be a problem. Not just because there are a lot of them but because the same abbreviation can have different meanings.

This isn’t such a common occurrence within counselling (at least not that I am aware of). Generally, the acronyms encountered within the world of psychotherapy are to describe professional or governing bodies (such as the BACP) or a particular type of therapy (like CBT).

However, within other domains of health and well-being it occasionally comes under the scrutiny of researchers. This is due to the risks that the same, or undefined, acronym may pose (1,2).

I thought it would be helpful to list out the ones that I know about below. As I encounter more, I’ll continue to update this list.

If you know of any other acronyms used in the area of mental health, please share them in the comments.


ACT – acceptance and commitment therapy

ACTO – Association for Counselling and Therapy Online (website)

ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

AFAB – assigned female at birth

AMAB – assigned male at birth

AOP – anti-oppressive practice

APA – American Psychological Association (website)


BACP – British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (website | what is the BACP?)

BDI – Beck Depression Inventory

BPS – British Psychological Society (website)

BSFT – brief solution focused therapy


CAMHS – child and adolescent mental health services

CAT – cognitive analytic therapy

CBT – cognitive-behavioural therapy

CCBT – computerized cognitive-behavioural therapy

CCT – client-centred therapy

CMHT – community mental health team

CORE – Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation

COSCA – Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland (website)


DBT – dialectical behaviour therapy

DIT – dynamic interpersonal therapy

DSM – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders


EAC – European Association for Counselling

EAP – employee assistance provider (of counselling/psychotherapy)

EBP – evidence based practice

EFT – emotional freedom techniques

EMDR – eye movement desensitization and reprocessing


FTM – female-to-male transgender individual


GAD – generalised anxiety disorder

GAT – gender-aware therapy; gay affirmative therapy

GSD – gender and sexual diversity

GSM – gender and sexual minorities

GSMT – gender and sexual minority therapy


HPC – Health Professions Council


IACP – Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP website)

IAPT – Improving Access to Psychological Therapies

ICD – International Classification of Diseases

IPT – interpersonal psychotherapy


LGB – lesbian, gay, bisexual

LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transexual

LGBTQIA – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transexual, queer/questioning, intersex, and allied/asexual/aromantic/agender.


MBCT – mindfulness based cognitive therapy

MBSR – mindfulness based stress reduction

MCT – multicultural counselling and therapy

MH – mental health

MTF – male to female transgender individual

MSM – men who have sex with men


NICE – National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (website)

NLP – neurolinguistic programming

NZAP – New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists (website)


PACFA – Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (website)

PCA – person-centred approach

PCP – person-centred psychology

PCT – person-centred therapy

PFT – problem-focused therapy

PHQ – patient health questionnaire

PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder


REBT – rational emotive behaviour therapy


SGL – same-gender loving


TA – transactional analysis


UKCP – United Kingdom Counsel for Psychotherapy (website)

UKAHPP – United Kingdom Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners (website)


WHO – World Health Organisation (website)

WSW – women who have sex with women

In summary

There are a lot of acronyms and abbreviations used in counselling, perhaps too many! However, knowing what they are can be a helpful way of navigating the world of psychology and psychotherapy.


1.            Cheng TO. Medical abbreviations. J R Soc Med. 2004 Nov;97(11):556. Available from:

2.            Kuzmina OD, Fominykh AD, Abrosimova NA. Problems of the English Abbreviations in Medical Translation. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2015 Aug 3;199:548–54. Available from:

Categorised as Resources

By William Smith, MSSc, BSc, MBACP

Will (he/his) is a psychological counsellor specialising in change, identity and gender. He holds a Master of Social Science degree in Gender Studies and a Bachelor of Psychology (with Honours) degree. Will's a Registered Member (No. 375157) of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and a Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society (BPS).