Counselling and psychotherapy – what’s the difference?
Counselling often focuses on resolving a particular issue. You may want to talk about something specific which is troubling you, perhaps a difficult relationship, for example, or painful emotions, unsettling memories etc. In this case, counselling for a few weeks or months may be appropriate. Talking with someone who is trained to listen and notice unhelpful patterns or ways of thinking is quite a different experience from talking with friends or family and it is usually helpful for gaining new perspectives. This can provide a sense of relief and create a change in how you think, feel or act in situations which have been frustrating or distressing. This may well allow you to move on without any further support.
Psychotherapy aims for more profound changes to take place. Psychotherapy provides the opportunity to explore and change more unconscious patterns of relating, thinking and feeling which may be impacting on your relationships, emotions and sense of well being. These problems may have troubled you for years or they may have surfaced more recently. Psychotherapy is generally open-ended allowing time for difficulties to be worked through within a safe, supportive relationship. It is also possible, however, to arrange for fixed-term psychotherapy in which only the more pressing matters are focused on.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) focuses on helping you to change unhelpful patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. These behaviours were originally learned as responses to past experiences but may now arise as inappropriate reactions to current problems such as anxiety, stress or fear. CBT is goal oriented and is generally appropriate for treating specific issues, such as obsessive disorders, phobias, panic attacks and addictions. For some people CBT may be all that is required to modify severe or harmful behavioural patterns. Others may prefer to address issues which may be underlying and causing these behaviours.
Bear in mind that....
If you do embark on counselling or therapy, it is important to bear in mind that:
- Therapy is something you are encouraged to take an active part in. Your own efforts, openness and desire to learn will help you towards deeper understanding of yourself.
- Your therapist is there to listen and help you make sense of difficulties and so will not do most of the talking!
- Your therapist will generally not offer specific advice to you and will typically remain neutral about decisions you make in your life so as not to interfere with your own autonomy.
- Therapy takes time and issues which have built up over time are unlikely to be resolved straight away.
- Success depends on building a strong therapeutic relationship with your therapist because insight, growth and transformation more easily take place within a healthy, trusting relationship. It is important therefore that you meet with your therapist to decide if you feel could work together.
Here is a link to an article entitled 10 Ways to Spot a Good Therapist from Psychology Today
How long will therapy take?
In a world of ‘quick fix’, speed and instant change it has to be accepted that therapy is something which takes time. Unhealthy patterns of thinking, relating and behaving which have been used for years to protect us from painful truths and emotional pain need to be gradually uprooted. Time is also needed to bed in new, healthier patterns, to develop a better and deeper emotional balance and to heal from the sometimes painful work of therapy.
What do therapists know about therapy?
All therapists have undertaken extensive therapy themselves as part of their training. This means that they have had first hand experience of being in the client's position and of the challenges you are facing when approaching therapy (maybe for the first time). It also gives us faith in the therapeutic process as we have reaped the rewards of therapy. I have great confidence in the efficacy of psychotherapy and counselling and believe there is great potential for the therapeutic relationship to be a catalyst for deep and lasting transformation of who we are and the way we live.
If you are considering therapy, I would be happy to meet with you to discuss what would be best for you. If we cannot match our availability, I am happy to refer you to one of my experienced and trusted colleagues.
call: 07549 352 977
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