What is therapy, counselling or psychotherapy?

The term 'therapy' is often used vaguely to describe a number of different treatments - some psychological and some physical. The registration bodies (listed below) generally use the terms 'counsellor' and 'psychotherapist', and sometimes 'psychotherapeutic counsellor'. All this can prove confusing for someone seeking out some personal help.

Counsellors have usually trained for 2 years part time on a recognised BACP or ACC Diploma in Counselling course at a university or registered centre. In recognised training institutions this involves seeing clients in a supervised placement. They are qualified to work with the issues and problems that beset people in their personal relationships, at work, and arising from loss or bereavement etc. 

Psychotherapists are normally required to hold a professional qualification such as in psychiatry, clinical psychology, social work, psychiatric nursing or occupational therapy prior to the postgraduate training. In addition they undertake a 4 to 6 year part time training based at a university, training institution or NHS psychotherapy department recognised by the UKCP or BPC. This involves a substantial clinical placement seeing clients/patients for therapy at a recognised psychotherapy centre. They are qualified, depending on experience, to work with individuals suffering from serious levels of anxiety and depression, personality disorders, complications arising from self harm, eating disorders and trauma etc.

The differences between counsellors and psychotherapists is described fully by the UKCPBACP and BCP on their websites as well as what you can expect from their services. All counsellors and psychotherapists are required to be in ongoing supervision which helps to regulate and support their work. Most psychotherapists have been required to be in their own personal therapy (at least once a week) throughout their training.

It is important to recognise that counsellors and psychotherapists work to different models in their training such as Psychodynamic, Person-centred, Gestalt, Transactional Analysis, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. There are many more types; some have gained more standing as effective than others. The number of sessions recommended for an individual may vary considerably; generally a psychotherapist will recommend longer therapy for a person with the more deep seated problems.

How might this help you?

Finding someone to talk to when problems become overbearing can be vital to returning to normality in your life. We are all likely to encounter times in life when we are overwhelmed by loss, anxiety, depression anad so on. Sometimes this passes with time and the support of family and friends. Medication from your GP may sometimes give relief together with therapy sessions. Whatever type of counselling or psychotherapy you decide upon, studies have shown that the quality of the relationship between you and the therapist will be important in bringing about a good outcome.

At first it can be anxiety provoking to see a therapist and it might seem easier to deny the issues that are upsetting you. Maybe it feels as if it would be impossible to speak about them, or even that you cannot find words to give account of your state of mind.

Therapy here is always gentle, allowing you the space to find words in your own time within a reassuring, supportive and understanding relationship. The work is confidential.

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