There is essentially no difference between counselling and psychotherapy. The definitions are arbitrary and change depending on who is defining them. I originally distinguished them as being short and long-term but my view of the definitions have changed in the past year.
Traditionally, the term psychotherapist was reserved for psychiatrists (doctors specialised in mental illness) who had further trained in psychoanalysis. In the 1950s in the USA Carl Rogers was developing person centred counselling. He coined that term because he wasn’t allowed too call himself a psychotherapist, despite being a medical doctor specialised in mental illness. At the time it was revolutionary.
The profession is not regulated in the UK and there are many different types of counselling and psychotherapy training and modalities. This can make it confusing for a person looking for a therapist. I have tried to address that in this blog post.
Whether you choose to attend therapy sessions for a shorter or longer period of time is up to you. However some of the things that can be addressed in therapy are: stress, relationship and sexual problems, bereavement and addictions. It can also help with mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD and borderline personality disorder. Therapy can also help resolve past trauma such as childhood abuse and neglect which may be affecting your relationships and coping mechanisms in the present.
Based on the works of Sigmund Freud, who most people have heard of, it also draws on more modern development of Freud’s ideas by people less well known, like Jonathan Shedler, Jude Cassidy, Philip Shaver and Peter Fonagy, amongst others. It is an approach to the psyche that sees personality as the result of a dynamic interplay of conscious, pre-concious and unconscious factors and how these effect our relationship with ourselves and others. The aim of the therapy the long term is usually deep seated understanding leading to change.
The difficulties we experience in relationship with others usually arise in the therapeutic relationship and part of what I do is to provide a setting that is safe enough for this to be shared, experienced and understood during the course of therapy. This is not always an easy journey. The therapeutic relationship is somewhat asymmetrical in that I do not tell you of my experience but am there to listen to your story. This can at times feel unbalanced, awkward or unfair; although this can leave you free to focus on what matters to you and what is important in your life.
More detail on what to expect can be found in this blog post.