What is the difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy?
I am a fully qualified counsellor and psychotherapist. I hold a 4-year Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling, and a further 4-year Postgraduate Diploma in Psychotherapy. The 2 trainings build on each other, and so I bring a significant professional training background to our work together.
Clients often ask what is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy. That’s an important question, because the answer highlights both the extent of the practitioner’s training and qualifications, and also the difference in the depth and nature of the work you will undertake with that practitioner.
In practice, being in the room with a therapist is in very many aspects the same whether you are engaging in counselling or psychotherapy. However, the purpose behind what is happening in the therapy process itself will be slightly different. Your therapist is also likely to work technically slightly differently with you, depending on which you have agreed to engage in together.
Simply put, Counselling tends to be the treatment of choice where there is a fairly clear issue to be worked with requiring a fairly clear or straightforward solution or outcome. For instance, grief following bereavement, a life crisis requiring a difficult decision to be made, or a relationship difficulty.
So, it would be accurate to say that Counselling is problem-based, or issue-based. The person seeking help feels reasonably happy with most aspects of their life and, if this one particular area were to be improved, things would be fine.
On the other hand Psychotherapy is called for when it is our whole life that feels all wrong, rather than just a part of it. The issues causing us to feel this way often go much deeper, are more long-term, and have often been around for a very long time. It isn’t so much about solving a problem, or working through a specific issue, but rather it is about working with the whole person to discover how things have come to be the way they are, and to help the person to change at a more fundamental level.
There is a difference, also, between the training which a counsellor will have received, and that of a psychotherapist.
In order to be qualified to practice, a counsellor should have undergone a 4-year training to Diploma level. This is normally nowadays at post-graduate level.
A psychotherapist will have completed that same 4-year training to Counselling Diploma level, plus a further 4-year training in psychotherapy. Both of these again will have been at post-graduate level. This will have included intensive personal therapy, mental health placements and child observation placements, together with having completed the vigorous process leading to professional registration with UKCP (United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy).
Do I need counselling or psychotherapy?
Clients often know whether the unease or unhappiness which has brought them to seek help is likely to be straightforward to solve, or whether the issues behind those feelings are deeper and of longer standing.
Sometimes, however, we need our therapist’s help to begin to work this out, and our therapist will engage in a discussion with us to work out together what the best way forward seems to be.
All clients are invited to come for an initial assessment session, where we explore together what has brought them to seek help, and how best we can together achieve the changes they are looking for.
The importance of both modalities
In reality, however, the distinction is far less important than the relationship you form with your therapist, and the experience that therapist has in helping you with the particular issues you would like to explore.
It would also be true to say that, in practice, psychotherapy and counselling are on a continuum, and there is no hard and fast division between them. Both a counsellor and a psychotherapist will be experienced in offering short-term and long-term therapy, and in working with both straightforward and more complex and deep-seated issues.
What is most important of all is that you find the right person for you, someone you feel at ease with, and who you feel offers the qualities you need.
If you feel we can help, do please get in touch.