What’s the difference between Psychotherapy and Counselling?
The terms psychotherapy and counselling are both used to mean a talking therapy for treating emotional and psychological issues without drugs. The words are often used to mean the same thing and the terms at times become interchangeable. Psychotherapy can have a very generalized meaning. For example reading a book or taking a walk can be “therapeutic” as it can reduce stress and anxiety. It could be considered a form of psychotherapy. Also “Psychotherapist” could be a description of anyone who provides therapy to help with emotional problems. These terms however have a more specific meaning that is important to be aware of.
There is a more precise definition between a Psychotherapist and a Counsellor as the two disciplines have developed over the years from different historical backgrounds. Psychotherapy grew out of the work of Sigmund Freud, Karl Jung and others. In the early twentieth century the profession had been a specialty of medical doctors. Later it became clear that to be a psychotherapist it was not necessary to have a full medical training. This is the reserved for psychiatrists who primarily treat serious mental disorders such as psychosis using drugs in their treatment.
What was considered to be vital part of a psychotherapist’s training was that they undergo extensive therapy themselves. As this was considered to be the most effective way they could understand the therapeutic processes and learn the necessary skills. More importantly it would weed out those individuals who where not emotionally mature or unstable themselves so protecting their future clients. It is sometimes the case that individuals who are themselves in need of psychological help, are attracted to train as counselors or therapists rather than face the reality that they need therapy themselves.
Counselling grew out of the development social work and the work of Karl Rogers. It was focused on giving advice and guidance and originally did not require its trainees to undergo therapy themselves. In recent years it has seen the importance of personal therapy for its students and included this in their training programmes. The differences between counsellors and psychotherapists have reduced over recent years as good practice is seen to have many more common denominators. The two disciplines now have more theory and skills in common.
It is important to note that there is still no legal registration of counsellors or psychotherapists in the UK. In the United States of America it is not possible to practice without a yearly registration. Here in the UK it is possible to legally set up in practice as a counsellor with only a few weeks training or even none at all. As a potential client the most important thing to know is that your therapist is properly qualified. This can be checked with their professional body on their website. It can be worth asking them about the work they have done in the past and their areas of expertise. Also it’s vital that the client feels safe and at easy with the therapist they plan to work with in their initial session.
Fully trained psychotherapists and counsellors are usually listed as members of either the Untied Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) www.psychotherapy.org.uk or the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) www.bacp.co.uk There are other professional bodies that will represent other professions such as Counselling Psychologists.