What's the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?
There is no hard and fast line that can be drawn between these two
activities. Some people are clear that they are either ‘counsellors’ or ‘psychotherapists’,
while others often just use the term ‘therapist’ to cover both.
A psychotherapist will normally have had longer and more in-depth
training than a counsellor. Usually a psychotherapist will work over a longer
period of time than a counsellor, aiming to work on issues that are ‘deeper’,
and perhaps less clearcut at the outset, than those a counsellor may be able to address.
How does it work?
Troubles of the mind are not like those of the body.
An important difference is that in our minds we have slippery concepts like ‘self’
and ‘consciousness’, which make us complicated and each unique.
My ‘feeling odd’ will be quite different from yours.
Research says that what is most important is a good relationship
with your therapist, where you feel respected, listened to, and not judged.
Some terms and their meanings
There are many jargon words and phrases associated with counselling and
psychotherapy. The following list explains a few. If there are other terms or phrases you'd
like to have explained, or if these explanations leave you with questions, please let me know and
I'll attempt to clarify them for you.
- This stands for ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapy’, a sort of therapy that
focuses on thoughts and behaviours. As a client, you will be
encouraged to work on the connection between your thinking and your mood and
Transactional Analysis or TA
(which I am trained in) has some elements of this.
- (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) A procedure which has been demonstrated
to have good results particularly with people struggling with the results of trauma, or PTSD.
- A humanistic style of working with clients. Gestalt is a german word
which means something like ‘pattern’.
A gestalt practitioner will help you explore and understand the patterns,
helpful or unhelpful, which guide your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
- A style of counselling or psychotherapy that believes that we all have value,
we can all change, and that we all have an
inner drive to self-improvement, sometimes called self-actualisation.
Transactional Analysis or TA
(which I am trained in) is humanistic in this way.
- (Improved Access to Psychological Therapies) This is a project of the UK National Health Service (NHS) intended to
make psychological therapy more widely available across the country. For various reasons, this has usually meant provision
of a limited number of sessions (short-term) of CBT.
- An approach to counselling and psychotherapy that aims to combine parts
(hopefully the best parts!) of some of the different styles developed over the years.
- Usually, work that involves meetings with a practitioner
extending over a period of a year or more. The long time period can allow the client and
practitioner to develop a different quality of relationship, which allows work on
different, more entrenched, issues.
- The idea of mindfulness has become increasingly popular in recent years. People have noticed how
being aware of ourselves, and of our thoughts and sensations, minute by minute — and not being
overwhelmed by them — is very helpful and good for both mental and physical health.
I can help you develop this, and help you enhance it with simple practices.
- Work with a counsellor or psychotherapist which is undertaken without a
definite idea at the beginning of how long it will be going on. The benefit of
this is that the number of sessions can be tailored to suit the nature of the work
being done, as the issues arise.
- The study of what is wrong. By contrast, a humanistic way of working will
also focus on what is right!
- Therapists trained to be person-centred have an overriding concern to
respect the client. This means trusting the client's own ability to explore
and find what they need from therapy to help resolve difficulties.
- A psychiatrist is a medically trained doctor who has gone on to specialise in psychiatry, which is the treatment of what is
seem as mental pathology. This means that the starting point of the thinking of
most psychiatrists is the use of medication, or other physiological interventions, to 'cure' mental illness.
- Psychoanalysts perform ‘psychoanalysis’, following ideas developed from those of Sigmund Freud, who originated
the idea of the ‘talking cure’ in Vienna before 1900, and his close followers,
such as Carl Jung.
- A mode of training that encourages therapists to focus on how unconscious
processes, especially from our past, can affect how we relate with each other.
Psychoanalysts think psychodynamically.
- (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) A term used to describe the various difficulties
experienced by some people after traumatic and stressful events, such as disaters, accidents,
attacks, or war.
- Work over a short time period. Six sessions is a common number used in
short-term work, though for some practitioners up to one year is also short-term.
- Any work which is limited by a fixed upper-limit to the number of sessions or the
number of months taken.
- Transactional Analysis (TA)
- A style of counselling or psychotherapy which started from a close look at
the details of how we relate and speak to each other (transactions). The originator,
Eric Berne, also wanted to demystify Freudian psychoanalysis.
It has developed into a rich set of tools and ideas for understanding ourselves, and particularly how we relate to each other.