What is the Difference between Counselling, Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy?

The main difference is in training, and depth of understanding of the more unconscious parts of our behaviour, relationships and communications. This is reflected in the different requirements for a therapist’s own personal therapy. Counsellors and Counselling Psychologists have a minimum requirement to have completed 40 hours of personal therapy during training, although some who develop an interest in working at more depth may choose to stay in therapy longer. Psychotherapists are required to be in therapy throughout their training, which takes a minimum of 4 years, amounting to ~170 hours if 1 session/week, or ~340 hours at twice weekly. Psychoanalytic psychotherapists or analysts are also required to be in therapy throughout training, which lasts on average around 5 or 6 years, at a frequency of from 3 to 5 sessions per week depending on the training institution, amounting to anything from 700 hours to well over 1,000 hours of personal therapy.

The depth of training, and personal qualities, determines the degree to which a psychotherapist can work at depth psychotherapeutically with another person.

Who comes to Psychotherapy?

Who doesn’t? Many people I see have outwardly successful careers in business, finance, education, medicine, or the performing arts, yet experience a loss of meaning, even deep unhappiness, in their lives or feel they are not achieving their full potential. Often their relationships suffer, and this may be a main reason to seek help. Others may have struggled most of their lives with depression or anxiety or self-confidence, or issues around sexuality or gender, or identity. Some may have experienced early childhood disturbances such as adoption, broken homes, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, while others may have been affected by more recent events such as bereavement, job loss or other trauma.

Psychotherapy aims to understand and change complex, deep-seated and often unconsciously based emotional and relationship problems, thereby reducing symptoms and alleviating distress. One of the satisfactions of working as a psychotherapist is in helping clients from all walks of life to gain a better understanding of themselves; and in tackling such a wide range of problems.

The relationship with the therapist is a crucial element in psychotherapy. The therapist offers a confidential and private setting which facilitates a process where unconscious patterns of the client’s inner world become reflected in the relationship with the therapist (transference). This process helps both client and therapist together to gradually identify these patterns and, in becoming conscious of them, to develop the client’s capacity to understand and change them.