Healthy Living

Psychotherapy vs. Counselling

Psychotherapy vs. Counselling

Key Takeaways

  • Psychotherapy does not focus on one individual problem but rather on a broad range of issues that are chronic in nature, as well as recurring feelings and behavioral patterns. 
  • In counselling, the counsellor acts like a tour guide, redirecting patients to their core issues and allowing them to come up with answers themselves. 
  • It is crucial to have a great rapport with your counsellor or therapist as most successful outcomes depend on this. 

What is psychotherapy?

When a therapist assists his patient in understanding who they are, the process is called psychotherapy. The therapist will take you through a journey that will reorganize your personality. Your insights can then be integrated with your day to day behaviour. Psychotherapy will treat your mental disorder, emotions, and your character among other issues. Psychotherapy takes a longer duration as it will involve a series of meetings. Some patients may undergo the therapy process for up to seven years. This will, however, depend on the concerns that they want to be addressed. Psychotherapy does not focus on individual problems, but rather a broad range of issues that are chronic in nature, as well as feelings that are recurrent, and other behavioural patterns.

What is counselling?

Counselling is sometimes known as therapy talk. This is because it will involve conversations after conversations between the patient and the counsellor. It, however, narrows down to a particular issue that a patient is suffering from. It then takes the systematic action to counter the problems. During counselling, issues are kept at a more current level. Past experiences are not usually considered. It is therefore a method used to assist patients who need to overcome things that are inhibiting them from their personal growth.

Furthermore, it helps patients to focus and provide solutions to their existing problems while, at the same time, working on your feelings. Though many a times counsellors will be referred to as advisors, this is not the case. A counsellor will usually take you through the journey of finding your own answers and guides you through them. He or she then supports you in the course of action that you may wish to take.

Counselling and psychotherapy are both fields that are very dynamic and therefore usually not viewed as one. Though they might have similar meanings to some extent, they can be discussed distinctively as each has its way of doing things.

Are there any differences between psychotherapy and counselling?

The differences between the two are surprisingly distinct:

Length of time

One of the primary differences between counselling and psychotherapy lies in the amount of time each process takes. The length of time used in psychotherapy is usually longer as compared to counselling. Matters are discussed in great depth, therefore, taking a considerable amount of time. In some cases, psychotherapy might take up to years depending on the concerns of the patient. Sessions in psychotherapy are therefore more frequent than those in counselling. It will typically involve deconstruction followed by a reconstruction.

Counselling will take a relatively short amount of time. It is, therefore, short-term assistance to a person’s problem. A counsellor will thus have sessions with his patients that are not regular as it mostly deals with situational issues.

Focus on the past problems

Psychotherapy will concentrate on the past experiences when trying to establish how they are affecting the current situations. The psychotherapist will need to determine the root of everything, therefore going deep into your past situations. Knowing your history will enable him/her to come up with ways in which you can overcome them and focus on building yourself from where you are.

In contrast, counselling will not dwell on your past experiences but rather concentrate on developing your personal growth right from the current moment. Therefore, a counsellor will always be dealing on how you can develop your skills regardless of which type of experiences you went through in the past.

Limitation to concerns

Psychotherapy is usually concerned with the various issues that are hindering you from achieving your potential or those that make you have a low self-esteem. The psychologist then focuses on these issues and provides ways in which each problem can be solved. In counselling, the focus is made on a particular challenge that is preventing you from your personal growth. Therefore psychotherapy dwells deeper into a person’s life as opposed to counselling.

Role of the psychotherapist and counsellor

In both cases, they play a very different role. Psychotherapy is usually reliable for those patients who find it hard to open up about their problems. The psychotherapist then provides you with an enabling environment to do so, taking a guiding role through the process. Most of the time, the process becomes more centered towards the patient (patient-centered approach). The psychotherapy process is a more engaging experience as the patient and the psychotherapist share a lot with one another.

In counselling, the counsellor acts like a tour guide. The counsellor redirects you to the core issues you are having, lets you come up with the answers, and does limited talking. You are provided with space to allow you to talk yourself into self-realization and knowledge. 

Place of the treatment

The place where counselling and therapy sessions take place may vary depending on the therapists. The counselling session is thought to occur in a mostly non-medical environment, for example an office or a counselling center among others. In contrast, psychotherapy takes place in an atmosphere that is medical in nature, like a hospital or clinic.

It should, however, be noted that it is not usually the case. As they are both dynamic, the setting is not a significant issue. Counselling sessions can, therefore, sometimes be found in hospital settings.

Are there any similarities between psychotherapy and counselling?

Despite the varied differences, psychotherapy and counselling are in most aspects identical. For example, the common concerns that prompt people to go to psychotherapy or counselling are usually the same. They mostly include problems that affect their daily lives.

Psychotherapists and counsellors are both responsible for solving human needs. Through psychotherapy and counselling, you are provided with an opportunity to look for help regarding problems that are preventing you from realizing your full potential. They both assist the person in gathering resources that will be useful in constructing a healthy life that is satisfying while also developing self-knowledge and awareness.

Psychotherapy and counselling take their patients with utmost respect. The autonomy of the patient is highly regarded. This is because, in both cases, the client has potential reservoir of resources which, when used, can successfully impact his/her life.

How do you choose between psychotherapy and counselling?

Choosing counselling or psychotherapy is not always the most important aspect in both cases. The major factor that is usually addressed is the type of relationship that exists between the therapist and the patient, or the counsellor and his patient. Successful outcomes are commonly reported in cases where the client and the therapist have a good working relationship. This is because, you will be sharing your confidential information with him/her, and, therefore, you are expected to have the best relationship.

You can choose which counsellor or therapist you want to work with by following the guidelines below:

1.    If you have a particular concern that you want addressing, counselling is the best option.

2.    If you have a pattern of behavioural problems which are recurring in nature, seek psychotherapy.

3.    If your past experiences are preventing you from being happy, go with counselling

4.    When you feel that your life or relationship is not satisfactory, go with counselling.

Both psychotherapy and counselling can impact your life positively.