Counselling or psychotherapy?
There is actually little distinction between counselling and psychotherapy, although training to become a psychotherapist and to be able to use this professional title requires a specific training, often over four years. Generally speaking, the term ‘counselling’ tends to be used for problem focused work over a short term period. ‘Psychotherapy’ tends to be used when the emphasis is placed on deeper, psychological issues and on a person’s inner world, and may last a number of years. Initially, you might enter therapy to deal with a specific problem but continue your explorations over a longer period in order to deepen your understanding of yourself.
The most important aspect of therapy is the relationship between the therapist and client. Effective therapy is founded upon a trusted and authentic relationship: a genuine collaboration between therapist and client. I believe it is the creation of a safe, empathic and respectful relationship that fosters healing and growth.
Research also suggests that the quality of the therapeutic relationship is more important than the theoretical approach as a vehicle for personal change.
This is why it is so important that you find a therapist who feels right for you and who you feel safe and comfortable working with.
Psychotherapy can help…
- When life feels impossible
- Increase self-awareness, self-acceptance and inner peace
- Improve self esteem and confidence
- Make constructive decisions and life choices
- Support exploration of painful and difficult feelings
- Try out new ways of relating
- Remove creative and emotional blocks
- Work towards healing past wounds and releasing behaviour patterns that no longer serve you
- Understand how life experience has shaped who you are
- View life’s challenges as a gateway for growth
- Explore your life purpose
What happens in therapy?
Therapy takes place in a comfortable and secure setting. You can use your sessions however you wish. You might want to talk about a particular issue, grapple with difficult feelings or simply ‘be’ with whatever is arising in the present moment. You direct the content and pace of your sessions while your therapist listens attentively and with an attitude of ‘interested curiosity’ and respect about you and your life. The therapist’s role is to act as a supportive and understanding guide on your explorations and help you make sense of what’s going on.
At appropriate moments your therapist may …
- Reflect your story or experience back to you
- Validate your thoughts and feelings
- Offer a different perspective
- Make connections between different parts of your story
- Gently encourage deeper exploration of your issues
- Draw attention to the way you relate to yourself and others
- Suggest creative ways of working with your material
- Suggest ‘homework’ and exercises to do between sessions for example keeping an insight journal or dream diary
Therapy isn’t …
- Something that is ‘forced’ upon you . You don’t have to talk about anything you don’t feel comfortable sharing. You stay in charge of your process.
- About giving advice. A good therapist won’t advise but support you in finding your own answers.
- ‘A friendship’. A friendship implies a ‘two way or reciprocal’ support system. Instead, the boundary of the therapy relationship is ‘one way’ care for the client. It is the therapist’s role to emotionally hold and support you and not visa versa.
- A quick fix. Counselling and psychotherapy doesn’t always offer an instant solution to our problems. The process of therapy can take time. However with courage and a willingness to change on your part it can bring about profound transformation. Therapy might not be able to erase all our hurts but it can allow us to live with our wounds with greater peace and self awareness.