Is it confusing to find the right mental health specialist? You could be looking for support for anxiety, depression, addiction concerns or relationship difficulties and wonder if you should turn to a counsellor or psychotherapist. In this blog, I hope to show what similarities and differences come between the two terms: counselling and psychotherapy.
Should I use a Counsellor or Psychotherapist?
It is a professional opinion that if the individual is accredited and has suitable qualifications either offers positives or negatives. Let me start with the role I have as an anxiety counsellor. When we first meet, the initial assessment will look at how your awareness of anxiety affects you. It could be that there is a certain place, person, relationship or part of you that becomes triggered by anxious thoughts and actions. There could even be certain narratives which make up your life story that anxiety features in, and possibly even controls.
There may be occasions when you have support to tell others what symptoms are happening to you. These might be friends, family or work colleagues. Or, you may be dealing with internal thoughts and feelings which cause feelings of shame and guilt alone.
As a counsellor who has experience dealing with anxiety, it will be possible to support you by sharing all, or parts of these sensations. We will agree after the initial assessment on how many sessions you feel are needed to support you. We will discuss the budgeting of how these sessions meet your expenditure as an affordable service for the duration we work with one another. It could be that weekly sessions are suitable, or for some, it could be that fortnightly are more beneficial. This is the start of working with a counsellor in a safe, non-judgmental and confidential space.
When thinking of using a psychotherapist you may experience a similar beginning. What differs is the type of assessment undertaken at the early stages. It could be that longer and more in-depth questionnaires are used to collect information on thoughts, feelings and actions. From the earliest stages, the work will seek to be explorative in the symptoms and diagnosis you will have undergone.
A psychotherapist works towards supporting you in working to know more about a diagnosis. Regularly, reviews will look at psychoeducation to support greater knowledge of medication, habits and symptoms to aid better awareness. In my experience, most psychotherapists will have extensive knowledge and interests in the field you are presenting with. They may even have personal experience of what you are going through. It is fair to expect that a specialist psychotherapist will have a long experience working with the difficulties you face.
A difference to counselling is that a psychotherapist will most likely work with you at least weekly, and may even offer more than one session per week. Their cost will be greater than a counsellor to reflect training and experience. And, availability may be limited as specialist psychotherapists are currently in high demand.
To the best of my knowledge, it is not professionally viable for any mental health specialist other than a psychiatrist, specialist GP, or practising doctor to give a medical mental health diagnosis.
Would you suggest face-to-face, online counselling or online psychotherapy?
As you gain more confidence to reach out to professionals you may be thinking about whether you prefer face-to-face, online counselling or online psychotherapy. There are a few considerations which I will propose.
A similarity between counselling and psychotherapy is that each feels different face-to-face and online. Both counselling and psychotherapy have benefited from being online. And there are also disadvantages when working with the most difficult mental health concerns online.
Would it be fair to say that online is convenient? A shorter commute to meet your counsellor or therapist. And the confidence that the space behind your screen is familiar or known to you. A similarity between counselling and psychotherapy should offer online and face-to-face services.
It could be that when you are experiencing anxiety, depression, addiction concerns or relationship difficulties you may benefit from face-to-face contact. Especially, if you have complex or severe symptoms. Indeed, a difference between counselling and psychotherapy would be to suggest that a psychotherapist would want to meet face-to-face. It is more helpful to see how the mind, body and shared space support or cause reactions for you.
There are disadvantages to both formats if you work with a counsellor or psychotherapist. I suggest that with online counselling and psychotherapy you can end a Zoom call and make yourself more comfortable with self-care sooner. There could also be the critical factor that working online, you might not have a safe, non-judgmental and confidential space to work in.
I would also add, that there is difficulty leaving a therapy room. You are encouraged by me to consider self-care and take the safest and most supportive route home, or back to work. Put simply, doing self-awareness work with a counsellor or psychotherapist is difficult. What are your thoughts? Have you changed your preference?
How do I decide what the best benefits of counselling and the benefits of psychotherapy are?
I would recommend reading my previous blog on a similar topic. I think it is also worth adding here that counsellors and psychotherapists do offer differences which could be important to you. In particular, your ability to heal.
Therefore, I would signpost clients to come at this question by looking at how much help is needed in life and how a diagnosis; or with a diagnosis and its effect on you. The work level is much harder with the second option because the professional will have the skills to support you at a greater depth. Whereas, a counsellor looking to support you in life and build emotional resilience and coping strategies with the affect.
A disclaimer here is that if you are in a long-term contract with either type of professional you will get both of these.