What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

November 4, 2019
counselling mental health care plan

A psychotherapist is a counsellor that is interested in the trajectory of self-actualisation for their clients. A psychotherapist focusses more on long term terms goals associated with personal and— in my case being a transpersonal therapist— spiritual development.

During counselling, the focus is on issues, topics and personal problems that are creating tension, stress or chaos in the life of a client. Whereas psychotherapy focusses on inner personal (and spiritual) development. Not to be confused with psychology.

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A psychotherapist is a counsellor and utilises all of the counselling skill set, as well as working with the conscious and unconscious material of the client. A counsellor may or may not utilise psychotherapy. Not all counsellors do psychotherapy but all psychotherapists do counselling.

Counselling may be used to tackle something like gambling addiction, relationship issues or breakdown. Once the problem or issue is eliminated from the client’s life, for example, in the case of the relationship counselling, the relationship improves or dissolves, the client will often finish with the counselling support. The end goal was achieved so the sessions come to a close.

Psychotherapy can be used for each of the same too, however, the focus is on the development and growth of the client beyond the surface or presenting issue. And into ‘what does this mean for me now’. For example, psychotherapy for a gambling addict may look at uncovering similar past patterns that have played out and what identity does the client associate with when gambling is no longer part of their life.

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When it comes to relationships, a psychotherapist may continue to work with a client beyond the resolution of the relationship problem and then dive into the client’s relationship with themselves. As well as their meaning and purpose in relationships and in life in general.

In counselling, the timeline is in conjunction with the life of the problem or issue. In psychotherapy, the timeline can be any length and ongoing.

Psychotherapy refers to a range of treatments that can help with mental health problems, emotional challenges, and some psychiatric disorders.’

In my Adelaide counselling practice, I notice that a lot of people are motivated to see me because of a problem in life, that requires me to utilise my professional counselling skill set. But then once the problem has resolved, clients that have enjoyed the process, tend to ask, ‘what else is there?’ ‘Where to from here?’ And are generally eager to work on themselves which is where the psychotherapeutic framework comes in as a means of this continued personal investigation. ‘How am I in my world?’ and ‘what does my world mean to me?’ is usually at the core of most psychotherapeutic work.

Psychotherapy helps by giving an opportunity to talk to a specially-trained health professional in order to understand your symptoms, and to help you adapt how you feel, think and act in response to them.’

Ready to give it a go? Book a counselling or psychotherapy appointment today.

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