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What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy

Counselling and Psychotherapy are both forms of psychological therapies are similar in many respects. Yet, there are important distinctions between the two. Below is an explanation of both counselling and psychotherapy and a discussion on the differences.

What is counselling

“we cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed.” ” (Roger, 1979).

 In counselling, clients are helped to overcome current issues which may be preventing them from enjoying or engaging with life. Counselling tends to be a shorter process than psychotherapy. It looks at the present, is problem focused and deals more so with day-to-day issues. Counselling primarily aims to help you re-establish equilibrium and to return to an experience of well-being. Counselling helps a person to process powerful emotions such as anger or grief, deal with immediate causes of stress and anxiety, clarify values and identify options when making important decisions…

What is psychotherapy

“the purpose of psychotherapy is to set people free”. (Rollo May)


Psychotherapy is focused on helping a person to understand their life in a profoundly aware and reflective manner. It tends to be a longer process than counselling and often explores the client’s core self, by deeply exploring their past experiences and childhood relationships.

Psychotherapy examines the long-standing attitudes, thoughts and behaviours which have influenced the current quality of a person’s life and the quality of the relationships in a person’s life. In other words, it can bring into awareness new perspectives as to how and why things have become this way. It aims to empower the individual by freeing them from the grip of unconscious triggers or impulses through increased self-awareness, self-efficacy and self-determination.

Psychotherapy goes much deeper to uncover the root causes and interwoven threads by the examination and reflection upon personal and (systemic) family history. Therefore psychotherapy can help us to become newly conscious of the patterns of how we think, feel and act so that as we think, feel or act we are doing so meaningfully, purposefully and congruently aligned to our beliefs, values and feelings. Psychotherapy also often uses the relationship between the client and the therapist as a valuable resource to reflect on wider relationship imprints and patterns, and is considered central to the positive outcomes of a person’s therapeutic process. In both forms of treatment, counselling or psychotherapy, what remains essential is that the relationship is built on mutual respect, trust, support and honesty.