Many people have asked me what the difference is between counselling and psychotherapy. It is a very good question and the answer helps people to find the specific approach that will serve them appropriately. There is certainly a lot of overlap between the two disciplines. I have tried to pare them apart as you will read below.
Counselling is generally understood as a process which helps people achieve their goals, or to function more appropriately. It has tended to have an educational, situational and developmental focus and draws on the client’s inherent, but possibly unrecognised strengths and competencies. Counselling enables a person to access multiple perspectives and options, broadening their sense of identity and thereby, opportunities. It is very much concerned with behavioral change.
An emerging approach in counselling is called ‘collaborative’ therapy and pertains as much to one-on-one counselling as it does to couples and family therapy. I find it to be an extremely empowering form of therapy for my clients. It recognizes and validates the client’s expertise and innate resilience. Many clients are far more resilient than they have ever realised. Helping them to discover and embrace such propensities is a very rewarding experience. From such a platform clients are able to imagine a preferred future for themselves and then go about constructing it.
Psychotherapy is seen as remedial in nature and intent on problem solving. I see it as an ‘heuristic’ process, which means finding solutions by problem solving. It often sheds light on aspects of personal history and one’s belief systems and their influence on present day health, happiness, and the notion of satisfaction and personal potential. This means working towards reparative change in life, allowing important insights into chronic cycles of emotional and physical disharmony.
Michael Finn is a Counsellor practising at clinics in Bardon and New Farm in Brisbane. He does one-on-one counselling sessions and couples therapy. Appointments are available Mon & Fri at Bardon Counselling & Natural Therapy Centre and Tue, Wed and Sat at Osteopathy on James in New Farm.