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  • Amirah Ahmad Shah

Counselling VS Psychotherapy

What's the difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy? These two terms are often used interchangeably, but... Is there really a difference?

In a nutshell, the difference lies in Time & Depth.

According to The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation Australia (PACFA) , Counselling is:

“Professional counselling is a safe and confidential collaboration between qualified counsellors and clients to promote mental health and wellbeing, enhance self-understanding, and resolve identified concerns. Clients are active participants in the counselling process at every stage.”


When people seek counselling, they have one or two main issues in their lives they would like to improve or attend to.


Generally counselling are more short-termed. Clients may have anywhere from 3 - 12 sessions, depending on their needs and the complexity of their circumstances.


Some examples can be around:


1) Learning new skills or strategies to cope or adapt with changes

2) Emotional- regulation

3) Dealing with transitions such as life: after a relationship breakdown, the loss of a loved one, a chronic illness, or unemployment

4) Improving one's capacity to reframe life stories

5) Developing more self-awareness

6) Creating change in one's life

7) Implementing new habits 8) Dealing with autonomy and issues around responsibility


Meanwhile, PACFA defines Psychotherapy as:


“Psychotherapy is the comprehensive and intentional engagement between therapist and client for the healing, growth or transformation of emotional, physical, relationship, existential and behavioural issues, or of chronic suffering, through well-founded relational processes. The aim of psychotherapy is to support increased awareness and choice, and facilitate the development, maturation, efficacy and well-being of a client.


From a single glance, we can see that psychotherapy has more depth to it. It addresses the deep dark issues. It unpacks one's histories, values, beliefs, traumas, perception, personality, and so much more. It is more holistic in it's approach and therefore signals that psychotherapy is long termed.


PACFA also states that:


“Psychotherapy involves what is known and what may not be known in personal functioning, usually referred to as “conscious and unconscious factors”. Through a holistic perspective it encompasses the mental, emotional, behavioural, relational, existential and spiritual health of a human being.”


(Psychotherapy) unpacks one's histories, values, beliefs, traumas, perception, personality, and so much more.

The philosophical aspects are dealt with more with psychotherapy, because the therapist sits with you, through the "Why's" in your life. The therapist works with you to uncover your predispositions, your family histories, as well as the dialogues you have with yourself and others.


Some examples of psychotherapy can be around:


1) Making meaning from (typically unfortunate) life events such as:

Death, Disability, Chronic illnesses, Divorce, and Traumas

2) Understanding the nature of Grief and Loss, and making sense of it

3) Developing insights into Addictions and Mental health illnesses or Compulsions

4) Understanding Depression, and Managing it


and many more.


In order to develop insight into one's actions, behaviours, beliefs, psychotherapy allows clients to discover the root of their challenges, rather than approaching them symptomatically.

Matters around culture, and spirituality also play a huge role in one's life choices, behaviours, and interactions with society- therefore affecting one's mental health in a significant way.

So... Then What?


Well if you are thinking about seeking counselling or psychotherapy, think about "WHY" you want to speak with a therapist, and what your goals are. That can ensure that you are able to get the help you need, in the time that you need. You can also be very honest with your therapist about how long you envision your therapeutic engagement to be.


Most counsellors and psychotherapists are trained with various modalities. So you can also look for a therapist whose methods align with your values and your goals.


There are so many modalities out there these days, specific to various issues like Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mindfulness, Existential Psychotherapy, Gottman's Method (for couples), Emotion-Focused Therapy, EMDR (for PTSD), Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Play Therapy, Culturally- Responsive Therapy, Narrative Therapy... Oh the list GOES ON..!


Having some idea may be useful in finding the right therapist for you. But more importantly, having a sense of what you would like to accomplish from counselling or psychotherapy is a good litmus check to have at the back of your mind.


Some litmus questions can be around:


1) How do I know that therapy has helped?

2) What do I want to see different in my life?

3) What changes can I see if my goals are met?

4) How would my energy levels and my mood change after every session or a series of sessions?

5) What emotional shifts do I want?

6) What physiological/physical shifts do I want?

7) What spiritual shifts to I expect?


If you would like to work with me, Book An Appointment here: https://www.aroad2recovery.com/book-online

for a complimentary 20 minute session, where we have a chat about your concerns and whether I am the best fit for you.


I consider myself a counsellor and a psychotherapist as I am not only trained in working short-termed with individuals about specific issues, but am also heavily invested and passionate about working in existential, spiritual, social, and cultural spaces.


To learn more about me and my approach, please visit https://www.aroad2recovery.com/our-therapeutic-team


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