What exactly is Counselling?
Counselling in the first instance is about listening, to help the client gain a clearer grasp of their problem. This enables the client to make the necessary choices or changes that need to be made. Even though counselling is not about giving advice it can clarify the options available and help decide what’s the best way forward. Throughout this process the counsellor’s response is guided by their ethics and their professional objectivity, and this is what marks it out from any other kind of relationship in life.
In due course the client explores different aspects of their feelings and is gradually able to talk about them more freely and openly. Bottled up emotions such as anger, grief and anxiety can be addressed with the view to making them easier to understand and manage. The counsellor is able to encourage the deeper expression of such feelings, though as a result of their training they are also able to accept and reflect on the client’s problems without becoming too burdened by them.
Acceptance and respect for the client are the basic foundations of all forms of counselling, and as the relationship develops so trust grows between counsellor and client. This enables them to face up to difficult aspects of their lives, and slowly examine their feelings about relationships and themselves in a way they couldn’t before. Counselling is about helping the client examine the behaviour or situations which are causing them problems and find ways to initiate the necessary changes. Even though counselling is non-directive it can be profoundly life changing.
What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is generally viewed as a longer-term intervention that focuses mainly on acquiring a much deeper insight into the sources of chronic emotional problems that the client may well have suffered over a period of years, or even the length of their lifetime. By contrast counselling often tends to focus on more recent issues, crises or events in the person’s life, though not exclusively. The primary focus in psychotherapy is on the person’s thought processes, identifying behaviour patterns over time, noting triggers, or typical emotional responses, and exploring how these may have been shaped by past events. The long-term goal is to highlight and address the root cause or core issues behind the client’s current problems, with the view to generating permanent changes and ultimately personal growth.
There are a wide range of therapies that fall under the general heading of psychotherapy, including approaches such as Gestalt Therapy, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and much more.
It must also be noted that there are many similarities between counselling and psychotherapy, where quite often counselling includes elements of psychotherapy in its approach to the client, again with the aim of producing lasting change.
What is a Psychologist?
Counselling or Clinical Psychologists are therapists who have completed a BPS approved degree in psychology before undertaking a further 3 years of specialist training to receive a Doctorate level qualification. They use elements of counselling and psychotherapy in their approach and are usually familiar with at least 2 types of therapeutic intervention e.g. CBT and psychodynamic.