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, a client, has enlisted the help of another, a therapist. What brings clients to therapy is experiencing emotional uncertainty or even pain, and typically clients might want something specific to happen (like to feel better, to understand, to change something, to move on), or 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 about. This talking can bring a deep sense of relief, release and movement forward to the client.
There are points of view about whether counselling and psychotherapy are distinct activities or really the same thing called by two different names. in Scotland (as in the rest of the United Kingdom) there is no legal distinction between counselling and psychotherapy. Some have considered 'counselling' to be therapy that it has been agreed in advance will be time-limited, while 'psychotherapy' has been applied to broadly the same process over an open-ended number of sessions. The assumption was 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.
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 a counselling session ....
You are welcomed to a discrete, comfortable and secure counselling room. 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 themseslves 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 is ok.
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, and 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
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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