What’s the difference between Counselling & Psychotherapy?
The terms “counselling” and “psychotherapy” are often used interchangeably, but there is a slight distinction.
Counselling generally refers to short-term consultation while psychotherapy typically refers to longer-term treatment. Counselling typically deals with present issues that are easily resolved on the conscious level whereas psychotherapy intensively and extensively examines a person’s psychological history. In other words, counselling is more concerned with practical or immediate issues and outcomes while psychotherapy is more focused on helping a person understand his/her life in a profound and reflective manner. Counselling normally helps a client process powerful emotions such as grief or anger, deal with immediate causes of stress and anxiety, clarify values and identify options when making important personal or professional decisions, manage conflicts within relationships, develop better interpersonal and communication skills, or intentionally change unproductive thoughts and behaviours.
Psychotherapy, on the other hand, is an evolutionary process that helps a person look at long-standing attitudes, thoughts, and behaviours that have resulted in the current quality of one’s life and relationships. It goes much deeper to uncover root causes of problems, resulting in more dramatic changes in perspective regarding oneself, one’s life experience, and the world in general. Ultimately, psychotherapy aims to empower the individual by freeing him/her from the grip of unconscious triggers or impulses through increased self-awareness.
Counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists don’t have medical training, however psychotherapists may include psychiatrists with a medical background. A qualified counsellor must have at least a certificate in counselling, preferably a diploma. The Psychotherapy and Counseling Federation of Australia (PACFA) requires its members to undergo a minimum of 350 hours of person-to-person training and 50 hours of supervision over a minimum of 3 years. Many mental health professionals are trained and skilled in practicing either counselling or psychotherapy, even integrating them when necessary. At times, straightforward counselling for symptoms such as indecisiveness or procrastination may reveal a damaging pattern of thought and behaviour that may require in-depth psychotherapy, provided the client is ready to address the deeper issues. In both forms of treatment, what remains essential is the relationship built on mutual respect, trust, support, and deep honesty.