The terms “counsellor” and “psychotherapist” are often used interchangeably and have many similarities, but there are some important differences too.
In general, counselling is recommended for specific issues and situations, such as addiction or grief, and takes place over weeks to several months.
Psychotherapy, in contrast, tends to explore past issues that may be contributing to present day problems, and often takes place continually or intermittently over a period of years.
Similarities between counselling and psychotherapy include:
However, understanding some of the differences between counselling and psychotherapy may be helpful in choosing the type of therapy that will be most effective for you as an individual.
Counselling involves two people working together to solve a problem.
In the context of mental health, counselling is generally used to denote a relatively brief treatment that is focused primarily on behaviour. It often targets a particular symptom or problematic situation and offers suggestions and advice for dealing with it.
In this setting, the counsellor offers guidance and support as the individual figures out ways to better manage life and adjust to change or adversity.
There are many types of counsellors, such as marriage and family therapists, grief counsellors, addiction and substance abuse counsellors, and more.
Psychotherapy on the other hand is generally a longer-term treatment that focuses more on gaining insight into chronic physical and emotional problems.
A psychotherapist will focus is on the individual’s thought processes, and how these may be influenced by past events such that they cause problems in the present.
In other words, psychotherapy addresses the root cause and core issues of current problems so that lasting change and personal growth may occur.
There are several different types of therapy that fall under the general heading of psychotherapy, including approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and much more.
When choosing a therapist, it’s helpful to learn about the differences noted above, as well as the background of specific providers and the approaches they use. Sometimes the choice will come down to personal preferences, access, or insurance coverage.
The most important step, however, is to find a therapist you can trust. In fact, the level of trust a person has in their mental health care practitioner plays the greatest role in whether the therapy will be successful or not.
You may actually need to talk with a provider or visit for a few appointments before you know which type of therapy is best for you. For example, with some situations it can be difficult to know if it is a short term, a limited problem you are facing, or if instead there are events or situations in your past that are leading to the current problem.
Whatever title the professional chooses to use, you can rest assured that they are all appropriately trained, qualified and here to offer help and support when you need it.
Take your time reading their profiles and give them a call for a quick chat or initial consultation, and you’ll soon find someone that you’ll feel at ease with.