Catherine Cowie Counselling

About Therapeutic Counselling

Is it counselling or is it psychotherapy?
(and what's the difference anyway?)

'Counselling' and 'psychotherapy' are both names used for a particular type of specialist therapy engaged in by two people once one of them, a client, has enlisted the help of the other, a therapist. What brings clients to therapy is experiencing emotional uncertainty or pain, and typically clients might want something specific to happen (to 'feel better', to 'understand', to 'change something', to 'move on'), or they may be hoping for more generalised recovery (for instance from trauma, depression, panic, stress, or anxiety).

At heart, whatever the process gets called, what will happen during a therapy session is that the therapist will listen very carefully and unconditionally to what the client has to say, and the client will feel understood and safe enough to talk in ways they may never have been able to before. Clients sometimes find themselves talking about matters they may not have realised were troubling them, or find themselves opening up about issues that they've perhaps never before been able to speak out about. This talking can bring a deep sense of relief, release and forward movement to the client.

There are points of view about whether counselling and psychotherapy are distinct activities, or are essentially the same process called by different names. in Scotland (and the rest of the United Kingdom) there is no legal distinction between counselling and psychotherapy. Some have considered 'counselling' to be therapy that is, by prior agreement, time-limited, while 'psychotherapy' is broadly the same process over an open-ended number of sessions. The assumption used to be that deeper seated problems could only be resolved by longer term work, but research has now clearly shown that the effectiveness of therapy is far more closely linked to the client's readiness for change than to any other factor. In fact once a client has reached the point of being ready to engage with the therapy process, very rapid and profound change can occur after only a few sessions , indeed it's often a strong sense of being ready for something to change that has a client seeking out a counsellor in the first place.

About Therapeutic Counselling. RoomStrip

Current understanding is that our emotional, cognitive and behavioural functions totally interlink, and it can't be assumed at the outset of therapy just how things are going to go. Therapy has the greatest potential to be effective if both client and therapist are open to what arises moment by moment, and when the therapist is dedicated to working with the client as a whole person and always recognises that it's the client who knows best about his or her life. This way of approaching therapy is the fundamental basis of person-centred theory and practice, and when working holistically like this the distinction between what some would call 'counselling' and some would call 'psychotherapy' has very little meaning.

What happens in an in-person counselling session?
You will be welcomed to a discrete, comfortable and secure counselling room.

What happens in an a physically-distanced counselling session?
Prior to the meeting, you will have expressed a preference to your counsellor about whether the session will take place by voice-only call or video call.Once the meeting has been started, the welcome will be a warm as if you were attending in person.

What happens then?
Once (and if) you feel ready, you will be invited to talk about whatever has meaning for you. Clients sometimes choose to tell their life story, and on occasion find themselves talking about incidents they've never before disclosed. Other clients find they need time and space to 'be' with emotional turmoil for a while. Whatever happens happens, and that's ok.

No matter how you meet, your counsellor will listen to you with utmost attention, understanding, and non-judgemental acceptance of everything and anything you talk about. You'll find your counsellor has an attitude of interested curiosity about who you are and how it is to be living your life. This helps her accompany you in your exploration of your life and circumstances.

Counselling is not something that's 'done' to a person; it is a collaboration founded in genuine relationship between two people.

... and what doesn't happen

  • You are never 'forced' to talk about or do anything you don't want to - the content and direction of sessions will always be in your control.

  • You will not be given advice or direct instruction, though you will be supported in working out for yourself and then carrying through whatever future actions feel 'right' for you.

  • You will not find an advocate, someone to represent you or speak up for you to a third party, though counselling can enable you to feel empowered enough to speak up for yourself.

  • You will be offered a caring relationship but will not be offered friendship. Friendships involve two-way 'holding' of both friends' issues, while the sharing associated with a counselling relationship focuses solely on the client's concerns. In fact the freedom to explore and voice difficult personal issues exists for many clients because they are not making disclosures to a friend or family member. Often it's the guaranteed confidentiality within the boundaries of the counselling relationship that makes the counselling room a safe place to face and explore distressing issues

  • About Therapeutic Counselling. Carl Rogers

    How person-centered therapy helps
    "The central hypothesis of this approach can be briefly stated. It is that the individual has within himself or herself vast resources for self-understanding, for altering his or her self-concept, attitudes and self-directed behaviour - and that these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided." (Carl Rogers, 1986)

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