What is the Difference between Psychotherapy and Counselling?

Despite the fact that the terms Counselling and Psychotherapy are used interchangeably – there are differences between the two.

Counselling, often referred to as ‘talking therapy’ involves a conversation or series of conversations between the counsellor and client. It often focuses on a specific issue presented by the client and involves steps toward attempting to address or solve the issue. The issue is discussed in either the present or the past tense and does not usually involve too much concentration on the role of the client’s past experiences. Despite this counsellors rarely offer advice but instead guide and facilitate the client to discover their own solutions while supporting them through the actions the client has chosen. So Counselling might range from short term solution focused treatment for a client with a specific problem such as improving a relationship or stress related issues or a lifestyle change.

Psychotherapy, like counselling, is based on a healing relationship between a health care provider and the client. Psychotherapy also takes place over a number of sessions though is usually of longer duration than counselling. Some people choose to remain in therapy for several years. Rather than concentrating on particular problems psychotherapy looks at overall patterns, recurrent themes and feelings, and character structure which often entails an exploration of the past and the impact that past has on the present. The aim of psychotherapy is to resolve the underlying issues through self-awareness thus helping to lay a foundation for a better future.  Psychotherapists take into account various aspects of the client including the body, the unconscious, the inner child and the relationship between the client and the therapist.

It is important to realize that counselling and therapy overlap in some areas. Put simply, Counselling tends to look at the problem outside ‘of me’ and psychotherapy looks at the problem ‘inside of me’.

There are many different theoretical approaches to therapy. Gestalt therapy is one such approach.

Gestalt Psychotherapy?

At Gingko Psychotherapy and Counselling I practice predominantly Gestalt Psychotherapy which was developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman in the 1940s. It is an experiential and humanistic form of therapy. Meaning that the individual is seen as having a distinct priority of needs and drives. Each individual must rely on their own inner wisdom and healing center. And that all people possess free will. The therapists’ approach/ my approach is a non-pathological approach. By that we mean we do not medical-ise the client. This is because in Gestalt therapy the context affects experience, and a person cannot be fully understood without understanding their context. With this in mind no-one can be purely objective —including the therapist (whose experiences and perspectives are also influenced by their own contexts) consequently the therapist accepts the validity and truth of their clients’ experiences. Hence the therapist refrains from interpreting events, focusing only on the immediate, including the physical responses of the client. In this way, gestalt therapy helps people gain a better understanding of how their emotional and physical bodies are connected. Understanding the internal self is the key to understanding actions, reactions, and behaviours. Gestalt therapy helps people take the first steps into this awareness so that they can acknowledge and accept these patterns.

The self is not seen as static but as a continually evolving process that is defined and illuminated by how a person makes contact with their environment. This process, when completed in a healthy and unimpeded way, generally follows a process called the cycle of experience. This cycle is a basic map for how a person becomes aware of a need, mobilizes to meet that need, and achieves satisfaction.

The relationship between the client and therapist is based on unconditional positive regard. Self actualization is the goal i.e. a client is able to take advantage of his or her strengths while also being mindful of their limitations. It is an enlightened maturity characterized by the acceptance of self and the ability to self-assess in a realistic yet positive way. Therapy sessions focus on helping people learn to become more self-aware and to accept and trust in their feelings and experiences to alleviate distress.

The therapist uses creativity in their approach, depending on context and each client’s personality.

Do I have to make a choice between counselling and psychotherapy?

When you come to Gingko Psychotherapy and Counselling do not worry about choosing between Counselling and Psychotherapy. What is important for you the client is to ensure that there is a good fit between yourself and the therapist. Research indicates that the connection between the counsellor/therapist and the client is the most important factor in producing successful outcomes.

In making a distinction between counselling and psychotherapy: If you have a single problem or issue you wish to have some additional feedback on – then counselling may be more appropriate. If you have noticed a pattern of problems or concerns that continue to surface and provide difficulty in your life – then consider psychotherapy. Do you want to address an earlier trauma or a family pattern that is affecting the way you feel – then consider psychotherapy.

The therapist will ultimately determine which approach to use.

Entering into any form of counselling requires a firm commitment on the part of the client as well as the therapist- and open communication is the key to success.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: