What Is Therapy?
Therapy, counselling, psychotherapy and psychology are terms that are often used interchangeably. Whilst there is some disagreement around the definition of – and distinction between – these terms, we'd like to outline what each of them mean within our service, their differences and where they overlap.
One major source of difference in the therapy you will receive comes from the type of professional delivering the treatment to you, and the different training and competencies they have. For more information about the different professional identities working in mental health, please click here.
In our service we work with both psychologists and psychotherapists, who provide psychotherapy services and more to our service users. We use the term "therapy" to describe all clinical work carried out between our clinicians and their clients. We then identify subtle but important differences between counselling, psychotherapy and psychology, which are outlined below.
What Is Counselling?
Counselling is a technique used in talking therapy. Counselling takes place when a counsellor sees a client in a private setting to explore a difficulty the client is having or distress they may be experiencing. By listening attentively, the counsellor can perceive the client’s difficulties and, by feeding back what they are hearing, the counsellor can then help the client see things with greater clarity, come to new perspectives and decide for themselves what action needs to be taken.
Counselling is a way of openly discussing options and, if necessary, bringing about change that is right for the person. In general, counselling’s focus is on helping the client deal with the difficulties they are experiencing in the present.
We do not have any counsellors on our team. However our psychologists and psychotherapists may use counselling techniques in their therapeutic work.
What Is Psychotherapy?
Technically, psychotherapy is an umbrella term describing a number of different talking therapies – which can include counselling – where a client shares what may be troubling them, and is listened to and supported in finding ways forward.
Psychotherapy allows a client to explore various aspects of their life and talk about them freely and openly in a way that is rarely possible with friends or family. Bottled up feelings may emerge and psychotherapy offers an opportunity to explore them, with the possibility of making them easier to understand and to take action. Our clinicians will be able to help you accept and reflect on your problems without becoming burdened by them.
Moving beyond counselling, psychotherapy looks at a person’s behavioural, emotional and cognitive patterns that may be causing or contributing to current distress. Psychotherapy aims to find the very roots of current issues, not just how to manage them. This can enable the client to look at many other aspects of their life in a different way and bring about lasting improvements.
What Is Psychology?
Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and the mind, where psychologists are concerned with and aim to explain how we think, act and feel. In clinical practice, psychologists can apply their knowledge in a practical capacity to help clients improve their everyday functioning, overcome challenges and reach optimal mental health.
In therapy, psychologists can help clients with the same types of issues as a psychotherapist can, such as bereavement, stress and anxiety, but can also take on more complex, long-term issues. Through their training, psychologists have the ability to assess, treat and prevent serious mental health conditions.
What Issues Can Therapy Help With?
There are a huge variety of reasons that bring a client to engage in therapy. These can include specific difficulties such as:
- Low mood
- Relationship difficulties
- Life transitions
Sometimes, it can also be a sense of dissatisfaction, a feeling of having no sense of direction or purpose which is bringing about distress. Whatever challenge, difficulty or transition you are experiencing, starting therapy can be a big step towards becoming the healthiest version of yourself. Therapy can be a truly transformative experience, which can help you address self-destructive habits, resolve emotional pain, and improve your relationships with others and yourself.
What Will My Therapy Be Like?
It is impossible to tell you exactly what your therapy process will be like, as you are unique, with your own experiences, strengths and difficulties. Good therapy will be tailored to you and your individual situation. That said, in all modes of therapeutic work your clinician will work with you to define your goals and to develop the steps you will take to achieve those goals in therapy. Your therapeutic process will not only focus on your current situation and experiences, but also on the internal patters that may be contributing to how you are feeling.
Generally, you can expect your clinician to be someone who works with you collaboratively, listens to you attentively, challenges you appropriately and supports you reaching your goals. Your therapist will also model a healthy and positive relationship, and follow ethical guidelines in their practice.
The relationship between you and your clinician is confidential, though there are a number of specific limitations to that confidentiality which your therapist will discuss with you in your first appointment.
Different Therapeutic Approaches
There are many different theoretical approaches used in therapy that influence how different mental health professionals practice. You might have heard of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Person-Centred Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, Systemic Therapy, Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT), or Solution Focused Therapy. These are all different theoretical approaches, or orientations, that mental health professionals use to guide the way they work in helping clients overcome their difficulties and reach their goals.
Most of our clinicians are integrative in their practice. This means that they have been trained in a number of different theoretical approaches to therapy, and can draw on whichever will be the most useful in supporting you and your specific needs.
As well as the different theoretical approaches, there are different techniques and interventions, such as mindfulness, coping strategies and behavioural interventions, which fit with the different theoretical approaches.
If you have a preference or interest in a specific therapeutic approach or intervention type, you can read each of our clinicians' bios here to find out which of our team might work best for you.