The difference between a counsellor and a psychotherapist

People often wonder about the difference between a counsellor and a psychotherapist.

They are very similar and psychotherapists are also qualified counsellors. The difference is that a counsellor is someone who will give you an open space to explore issues and feelings but a psychotherapist works within the structure of a psychological theory and approach to mental health.

A counsellor will remain with you for a period of time (6-12 sessions usually) to discuss issues or feelings. They will help you express and understand your feelings. A psychotherapist will identify a psychological disorder and work with you to solve it. Your time with the therapist (especially in private settings) will most often be based on a treatment plan or goals. This means that people with more challenging or longer lasting issues may spend a lot more time with a therapist (if that is right for them and any organisations involved allow it).

Another important difference is the way we will interact with you. A counsellor will be focused on open conversations that help you find greater understanding. A psychotherapist will understand your presenting issue through psychological theory and use this understanding to help you correct the underlying cause of the disorder. The cognitive-behavioural model that I use believes that we learn lessons throughout our lives and this learning makes us believe certain things about ourselves, others and the world. If this is negative or distorted it will affect our wellbeing and behaviour in many ways as we seek to manage the associated feelings. These could be anxiety, depression or the other disorders we treat.

Both approaches have their place so it is all about what you need. Some people just need help to understand a difficult time and some other people are experiencing a disorder where we need to work with them on the road to recovery.

I hope this was informative. Counselling Directory have a much more detailed article for anyone looking for more info.

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