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What is the Difference Between Counselling and Psychotherapy?

What exactly is involved and available in both of these therapeutic practices?

The difference between these is hard to define. In fact it would be far easier to compare the similarities with the two therapeutic modes, or models. In fact the debate as to whether various therapies are, or should be classified as counselling, or psychotherapy is ongoing. Both are at different times talking, as well as listening therapies. As listening and talking based methods of addressing psychological and psychosomatic problems and change, both counselling and psychotherapy are able to fulfil this role and both whether apart, or integrated can draw on a wide range of therapeutic techniques, often referred to as a therapists tool box.

The goals of both counselling and psychotherapy are one and the same. That is to enable an individual, or group to learn through the use of differing techniques to embrace positive aspects and thus enable clients to better understand themselves and take charge of their lives. Within therapy/counselling are many methods and these often are confusing to the layperson. Supportive therapy for example suggests a form of therapy which is non challenging toward the client and one which they are able to feel almost a kindred spirit with the therapist, allowing a rapport and good level of empathy to exist. Peer counselling refers to a type of counselling method where both parties take turns to be both counsellor as well as client. This form can encourage an openness and feeling of being a devils advocate of sorts. However boundary issues are a risk. Couple counselling originated in what was originally called marriage guidance counselling and was for married couples. Now it uses the generic term of couple, as this type of therapy/counselling is intended and offered to all couples regardless of marital status, gender or indeed sexual orientation. Family therapy should be considered as appropriate where an individual has underlying problems which are rooted in other family members. This is not something offered as a rule in the private sector.

Desensitization is a structured technique designed in such a way as to help clients who present anxiety related symptoms. It is a technique utilizing relaxation and control, enabling the client to shift the focus from acute to manageable by using a stepped process. Exposure techniques. These techniques work on the assumption that by exposure to an anxiety provoking stimuli and the client being encouraged to resist the fight/flight principle, they the client will over time become more able to cope and revaluate earlier models of fear, thus allowing them to regain control of that particular situation, or event. Response  Prevention? This technique which is often used to treat clients with OCDs is a way in which through the teaching of anxiety delaying relaxation techniques, a client is encouraged to delay their expected response time and so allowing them in a step by step environment to slowly initiate recovery. Cathartic work, or therapy is a way in which a client is encouraged to reach inside and express their true feelings in their raw state, it is often difficult to initiate, as clients often offer opposition in exposing themselves to another’s scrutiny. Empty chair work is used where two sides of a client’s viewpoint need to be addressed. This can be the clients ideas and those they, the client see as opposing them, another person, or even an organization. Two, or more chairs are used and the client is encouraged to move between chairs whilst expressing different viewpoints. This aids better understanding and enables the client to freely express themselves as another person, as well as another’s actions. Cognitive therapy? Put briefly cognitive therapy deals with thoughts and other mental processes such as dreams and images which flood the mind. The therapist uses techniques in which to highlight which thoughts are appropriate and which inappropriate for a client, it enables a client to better understand their own thought processes. The most popular form is CBT Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

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  1. Harvey Mafuta

    On August 2, 2009 at 9:06 am


    Counselling and Psychotherapy are indeed used interchangeably but there are some different elements in each of the processes.
    Therefore i feel distinction should be clearly made between these two processes.

  2. Harvey Mafuta

    On August 2, 2009 at 9:19 am


    Counselling and Psychotherapy are indeed used interchangeably but there are some different elements in each of the processes. Therefore i feel distinction should be clearly made between these two processes.

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