Psychotherapy and Counselling.
So what’s the difference? They’re both talking therapies, right?
Depending upon the individual therapist and their training, there may be a world of difference, or none at all.
Some counsellors provide brief treatment focussing on behavioural patterns.
Psychotherapists tend to focus on longer-term working, concentrating on long-standing emotional problems.
Although that is a grossly over-simplified explanation of the terms Psychotherapy and Counselling, it should suffice as an introduction to this page of my website.
I grew up in the North of England, where I was somehow left with the impression that talking about my problems in anything other than a jocular way would make me a crybaby. As Gene Hunt (the blunt, 1970s copper in Life on Mars) famously said “This is Manchester. We don’t sauté our fish. We batter it.”
This is Manchester.
We don’t sauté our fish.
We batter it.
Gene Hunt | BBC 'Life on Mars' | 2006
However, aged 35 and finding myself in the Last Chance Saloon, humbled by a physical illness which medicine couldn’t help (M.E.), I stopped trying to laugh it off, took myself seriously, sought out therapy and never looked back.
Psychotherapy and counselling can provide relief from debilitating symptoms. It can help us — in ways which would be difficult without the assistance of a non-judgemental ‘other’ — to make the necessary changes to our behaviour in order to live fulfilling lives. It can address symptoms which are causing problems in our relationships, enhance the quality of our lives by enabling us to make more helpful life choices, help us to learn and apply better communication skills, give us the ability to change self-defeating behaviours, enable better expression of emotions, offer relief from depression and anxiety and increase confidence and decision-making skills, and can offer other benefits flowing from the ability to establish and maintain a healthy client/therapist relationship.
"The results of psychotherapy and counselling tend to be longer-lasting and less likely to require additional treatment than prescribed medication. For example, in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders, psychotherapy clients/patients acquire a variety of skills that are used after the treatment ends and generally, these clients/patients tend to continue to improve after the termination of treatment." (Hollon, Stewart, & Strunk, 2006; Shedler, 2010).
The first step in therapy is for us to meet for an initial consultation and get to know each other a little.
At the first meeting, I will be asking you lots of questions about the issues you’re struggling with right now and what you’re hoping to address in therapy. I will also be asking you about your childhood experiences, your relationship with your mother, father, other caregivers and your siblings.
Other important information I need will include any previous therapy you’ve had (how it went, how it ended, whether it was satisfactory, etc), your work history, relationship history, reasons previous relationships ended and your current relationship if you have one.
The reasons I ask these questions is that the answers begin to provide with me a blueprint upon which I can loosely base my therapeutic strategy for our work together. The ‘blueprint’ will be added to over time, as more information surfaces from our sessions.
I will obviously allow time during the first session for you to ask any questions you wish to ask about me, therapy in general and how I see us working together in the future.
Psychotherapy and counselling are usually conducted on an open-ended basis and I usually suggest we review how things are going after six sessions to see if you’re getting what you hoped for from the therapy.
Subsequent sessions differ from the first, insofar as you come along to the session and either continue from where we left off the previous week (I may have extra questions to ask too) or you may have something in particular on your mind that you wish to discuss. It’s important that the client leads the session. I’m not one of those silent, blank screen types of therapists, but neither do I take control of the client’s session by asking leading questions or referring to something from the previous week’s session. There are good reasons for this, which I’m happy to discuss. My style is client-centred, entering the session open to the client’s agenda with none of my own, trusting that the client’s higher self, so to speak, knows what needs addressing next.
Having undergone years of therapy myself, I have traversed the terrain and this, along with years of professional training, qualifies me to accompany you on your journey. Knowing the landscape and knowing it well, I can be your trusted guide as you find your particular path. I can, like a Sherpa, help you with your baggage and hold a guiding light for you. I will know when to suggest we rest and when we should press on. I can encourage you when you feel like quitting. I can help motivate you when you’re feeling low. And I can be with you when you just need to feel low. I know the valleys and mountaintops, the moods to be expected when you hit an obstacle and want to quit, the sense of achievement when you overcome it — and the feeling of exhilaration when you conquer your own sense of limitation.
There will, of course, come a time when you feel you wish to leave therapy.
You can, of course, terminate therapy any time you wish, although I prefer a minimum of four weeks’ notice. I ask for this, not for my sake, but to enable what we therapists call a good ending.
During these 4 weeks, we can honour the journey we’ve been on together, look at the highs and lows, what was most helpful and what wasn’t. We can begin to see what’s been planted, what’s failed to thrive, what needs some fertiliser, what’s flourished, what needs harvesting and also what seeds may need planting for future growth.
I encourage you to give honest feedback to me. I’m open to constructive evaluation throughout our time together. I’m a trained professional so there’s no need to hold back.
I hope that throws some light onto the mysterious process of psychotherapy! This is an over-simplified explanation and it has to be because the way it works is reliant — as much as any clever interpretations or techniques — in the therapeutic relationship you and I will co-create.