This short article is provided to help clarify some confusion that some SAC members and also members of the public may have with the interchangeable use of the terms “counselling and psychotherapy” by practitioners and trainers. Happy reading.

Similarities with Psychotherapy and Counselling

Psychotherapy Counselling
Provides the person with a confidential space in which to explore personal difficulties Provides the person with a confidential space in which to explore personal difficulties
Effective practice depends to a great extent on the quality of the client-psychotherapist relationship Effective practice depends to a great extent on the quality of the client-counsellor relationship
Self-awareness and personal psychotherapy are valued elements of training and ongoing development Self-awareness and personal therapy are valued elements of training and ongoing development

 

Differences between Psychotherapy and Counselling

 

Psychotherapy Counselling
Psychotherapy agencies are separate from the communities within which they are located Counselling agencies are part of their communities (e.g. student counselling service in a university)
Treatment may involve the application of interventions defined by a protocol, manual or specific therapy model The helping process typically involves counsellor and client working collaboratively, using methods that may stretch beyond any single protocol or manual
Treatment has a theory-derived brand name (e.g. interpersonal therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, solution-focused therapy) Often has a context-derived title (e.g. workplace counselling, bereavement counselling, student counselling)
Many psychotherapist have a psychology degree, which functions as a key entrance qualification Counsellors are likely to be drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds; entrance qualification is life experience and maturity rather than any particular academic specialism
Predominant focus on the pathology of the person Predominant focus on personal strength and resources
Psychotherapy agencies are separate from the communities within which they are located Counselling agencies are part of their communities (e.g. student counselling service in a university)
Treatment may involve the application of interventions defined by a protocol, manual or specific therapy model The helping process typically involves counsellor and client working collaboratively, using methods that may stretch beyond any single protocol or manual
Treatment has a theory-derived brand name (e.g. interpersonal therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, solution-focused therapy) Often has a context-derived title (e.g. workplace counselling, bereavement counselling, student counselling)
Many psychotherapist have a psychology degree, which functions as a key entrance qualification Counsellors are likely to be drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds; entrance qualification is life experience and maturity rather than any particular academic specialism
Predominant focus on the pathology of the person Predominant focus on personal strength and resources

 

It is essential to acknowledge that none of the statements of difference represent an absolute difference between counselling and psychotherapy.

In reality, the domains of counselling and psychotherapy are fragmented and complex, and embrace a multiplicity of forms of practice. It would not be hard to find examples of psychotherapy practice that correspond to the characteristics attributed to counselling (and vice versa); there is a huge degree of overlap between counselling and psychotherapy.

It is best to regard these differences between counselling and psychotherapy as indicative of a direction of travel that is occurring within the therapy professions, rather than as constituting any kind of fixed map of what is happening now.

Nevertheless, a conception of counselling as distinctively contextually oriented, strengths based and as a pragmatic form of frontline, community-based practice reflects a trajectory that is clearly visible within the international counselling community.

 

References

  1. McLeod, J. (2012). The Counsellor’s Workbook. Developing a Personal Approach, 2, 197-198.
  2. McLeod, J. (2013). An Introduction to Counselling, 5, 12-13.