Counselling vs psychotherapy

How to understand what care you need

The difference between the two is quite subtle. In short, counselling focuses on present issues and can be short-term. It doesn't always go deep into your past to understand deep-rooted reasons for your current experience. Psychotherapy explores your psychological history and helps you understand the causes of what is going on in your life now.

If you have been through many traumatic events, which you feel you didn't process, counselling would not be the right approach. But if you are facing a stressful temporary situation, counselling may be suitable. It may help you process your feelings, build a narrative and explore your options moving forward. If you experienced bereavement or a big life change, you may benefit from counselling approach. At the same time, it is important to note that counselling may uncover the need for deeper psychotherapy. It is not always clear - not even for counsellors themselves when they do their own counselling - whether there is more exploration to be done. So this is something to keep in mind.

Counselling training generally takes less to complete, and counsellors need fewer clinical hours to qualify and register with a regulator. Psychotherapy training includes extra modules, such as working with trauma and some mental health conditions.

In the UK, counsellors are self-regulated by the BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy). Psychotherapists are self-regulated by the UKCP (UK Council of Psychotherapy). To register with UKCP, a therapist needs to undergo more training and get more hours of clinical experience.

With Talking Therapy, you don't necessarily need to know the difference. Many of our psychotherapists can do both short-term, goal-orientated counselling as well as deeper psychotherapy work. We assess our therapists' experience in great detail, so we can find the best match for your needs. We ask about the level of their experience working with various problems and other background information to find not only the best help with your particular situation but also someone you can relate to. The latter is fundamentally important, according to the recent clinical evidence.

You can, of course, agree with your therapist at the very beginning about how you would like to work. If you prefer short-term counselling - you may want to discuss it with your counsellor and agree on the number of sessions. It can be reviewed later if necessary. Remember, you are in control of your counselling, and it is important that you feel comfortable with the work and that you let your counsellor know about any concerns.


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