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Is there a difference between counselling and therapy?

In this article, we will look at the subtle differences between terms and jargon in the world of counselling and psychotherapy. As with other industries, there are often many ways to say the same thing. Whether you are looking for a counsellor or a therapist, this blog might help to make things a little clearer.

Is there a difference between counselling and therapy?

This is often a question that counsellors and therapists are asked and in reality, many of us aren’t entirely sure ourselves! The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) is the professional association for members of the counselling professions in the UK and even they use the terms interchangeably.

If you Google it, you will likely come across the differences being described as something like:

Counselling focusses on a specific problem or challenge that you are facing now. It is generally time limited (e.g 6-20 sessions) and will likely focus on tools to help you move forward in life.

Therapy has a long-term focus and will look at the individual as a whole. In particular the behaviours, patterns, thoughts, relationships and how you see the world around you will be explored. Underlying patterns around why you do what you do and how these affect your everyday life will be investigated.

The modality in which the counsellor/therapist is trained will have a bearing on whether or not they call themselves a counsellor or a therapist. On the BACP website, there is an A-Z section covering different types of therapy if you would like to know more about the differences. However, generally speaking, you either explore the past, make sense of it and avoid repeating destructive patterns for the future or, you don’t explore the past but instead focus on the present and how you can help yourself move forward into the future.

What is a therapist and does it really matter anyway?

Consider that the word therapist is also used in other contexts. A beauty therapist may have many strings to their bow that involve massage, nails, hair removal, reflexology. The common denominator around the word ‘therapy’, is the aim to help one feel better.

Inspired to write this blog followed a conversation with a fellow therapist whose client had expressed a desire to end his sessions with her because he wanted a ‘therapist’ rather than a ‘counsellor’ as he believed they would help him to ‘sort out his life’. So, is it just perception, keeping up appearances or cultural difference? Whatever the reason, the most important thing is that the therapeutic relationship is the right fit for YOU. Whether your person calls themselves a therapist or a counsellor, all that matters is that you feel safe and comfortable with them.

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