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What's the difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy?

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

The process of therapy occurs on a wide spectrum, where counselling and psychotherapy represent two different ends of that spectrum. In my experience, I find that most of my work with clients contains an overlap of both counselling and psychotherapy. Although not all therapists acknowledge this distinction, knowing the difference between these two terms can really help in order to receive service that fits best with you.

Generally speaking, Counselling tends to refer to more short-term therapy, where issues are resolved at a conscious level. In counselling, your therapist might use a more cognitive-behavioural (CBT) approach that explores your thoughts and feelings in relation to your behavior. This approach typically implies that the problem you might be experiencing will go away with a therapeutic shift in your mindset.

Psychotherapy, on the other hand, tends to refer to longer-term therapy, where problems may cause greater disruption in the lives of clients. In psychotherapy, your therapist might be interested in exploring your experiences with greater depth and recommend trauma-modalities like Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Lifespan Integration (LI), Observed Experiential Integration (OEI), etc. in order to resolve presenting issues. This approach typically implies that the problem you might be experiencing is actually your body's attempt at solving a deeper issue from your previous experiences.

In other words, imagine that you are on an island and your goal is to swim to the shore. For different people, the water between you and your goal can make this process simple or complicated. In counselling, we are able to stay at the surface of the water while we move towards the goal. In psychotherapy, we have to dive underneath to see what obstacles might be in the way.

Do you have any feedback/questions on this article? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know. I'd love to continue learning with you :)


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