What is Psychotherapy and Counselling?

It seems as though the terms “psychotherapy” and “counselling” have become somewhat of a buzzword. We see these words all over social media and in countless articles online. But although these concepts are pretty much everywhere, it’s hard to find a clear-cut definition. Without the knowledge in place, how can we begin to recognise if these services might even help us in the first place?

Definition

Psychotherapy and counselling are forms of talking therapies designed to help individuals or couples/families bring about active change.  

What kind of change? That depends on the client and their needs. This can be anything from changing the way you feel or dealing with specific habits to finding new coping skills or understanding recurring patterns in relationships. Talking therapies also work as a supportive space where you can explore anything on your mind and enhance your self-awareness.

Psychotherapists:
  • Help you to understand yourself and/or your relationships
  • Support and give non-judgmental space in difficult times
  • Help to clarify your thoughts and feelings
  • Provide you with the tools to cope with distressing life changes or situations
  • Help you to identify patterns in your life
  • Make change easier and clearer!
Are psychotherapy and counselling the same thing?

These two are often used interchangeably, but there is a small difference. Psychotherapy is basically more in depth and helps clients deal with more complex patterns, while counselling focuses on specific, short term problems. Therefore, being a psychotherapist usually requires more training and knowledge. Not every counsellor deals with e.g. more chronic issues where you might need to explore a recurring problem. Most psychotherapists, however, provide counselling if they believe it’s more suitable than deeper psychotherapy. Counselling is usually shorter as well.

What don’t psychotherapists do?
  • It’s important to know that they can’t prescribe medication, but can refer you to a doctor if you need antidepressants or other medication.
  • Psychotherapists also don’t provide healthcare guidelines. Let’s say you’re diagnosed with an illness that scares you or confuses you like diabetes. A psychotherapist can support you through the turmoil of a “fresh” diagnosis and the lifestyle you need to adapt but can’t give any advice on the type of medication or any other advice you get from a doctor.

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