Counselling & psychotherapy
First of all, you don’t have to have something ‘wrong’ with you to benefit from counselling or psychotherapy. Many people will start seeing a counsellor or therapist to solve a problem and talk things through but find that their life improves in ways that they did not expect.
At its simplest, counselling is simply the opportunity to talk regularly with someone who is not part of your life, in a neutral environment, knowing that everything you say will be kept confidential and that the counsellor will not judge you in any way. Lots of ordinary people use counselling when they need a safe, neutral space to reflect on a problem they are having or a difficult feeling such as sadness, grief, anger, depression or anxiety. Just being able to talk things through can help you feel better, make changes or find your own answers. Counsellors have usually completed 2-3 years of part-time training and should be registered with BACP.
Psychotherapy tends to help you look at issues in a bit more depth, perhaps trying to understand the bigger patterns in your life, where they came from and what direction they are pointing you in. In psychotherapy you may come to understand why some life events cause you to react in an unexpected way, for example, and to then solve any underlying problems. Psychotherapy can help free you from thoughts or feelings that restrict your life and your choices by finding out the deeper reasons that they are there. It can be useful for dealing with pretty much anything that troubles you, such as:
- life crises, looking for meaning
- depression, suicidality, self harm
- trauma & post-traumatic stress
- stress, anger & irritability
- relationship problems, sexual problems, sexuality
- mental health problems
- self esteem issues & self criticism
- anxiety, fears, phobias, panic
- grief & loss
- unwanted or troubling thoughts, feelings or memories
- abuse issues
- and more
In addition, a very few therapists are trained in body psychotherapy, which can help you find some relief from troubling body symptoms and illnesses.
Psychotherapists tend to have completed a longer training than counsellors (usually at least four years part-time) and should be registered with a national regulating organisation such a UKCP or BACP.
In practice there is a lot of overlap between counselling and psychotherapy, as you can probably imagine, and some professionals may not distinguish between the two as they focus on your needs from moment to moment.