Counselling and psychotherapy are terms that sometimes overlap and are often used interchangeably. However, Counselling tends to focus on current issues or difficulties of recent origin, and is usually shorter in duration. Psychotherapy tends to go deeper and often requires more time to heal issues originating in the past, but which may be persistent or recurring in the present. Generally, counselling and psychotherapy can happen simultaneously as long-standing issues may be found to be underlying current difficulties. The aim of both counselling and psychotherapy is lasting change brought about through increased insight.
Counselling or psychotherapy is for anyone who wants help to alleviate, resolve, or work through issues or difficulties; or to better understand themselves, their lives, their behaviours, their thoughts or their feelings. People seek assistance and support in times of change or crisis to find new possibilities; to make clear decisions; for reasons of personal development; to develop greater emotional, psychological, relational or spiritual self-reliance; or to improve the quality of their lives by tapping into their own inner wisdom. In essence, counselling or psychotherapy can mean working with life’s challenges in a creative way.
Simply being listened to and heard in a safe, confidential, impartial and empathic environment can be healing for many people. Having a regular time to think and talk things through in order to clarify issues and situations can often lead people to new insights and awareness; to better coping skills, and to a reduction of conflict in their lives. A sense of freedom and self-acceptance can emerge through becoming more able to feel, identify and express emotions as they arise; and through shedding old fears and hurts. New approaches to living, to learning and to dealing with difficulties can be developed through counselling and psychotherapy, as can new ways of experiencing and communicating. Whatever the situation, life can be lived more freely and expressively with greater peace of mind, self-confidence and contentment.
There is a range of short and long-term counselling and psychotherapy techniques and modalities including: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Emotion Focused Therapy, Gestalt, Mindfulness, Humanistic, Psychodynamic and Existential Therapies. Some people find that they benefit most from short-term, Solution-Focused Counselling; while others find that they need longer term psychotherapy.
Warning signs that one’s optimal functioning might be diminishing include: anxiety, stress, sleeplessness, headaches, feeling withdrawn, flagging enthusiasm, depression, fatigue, boredom, stagnation, apathy, loss of a sense of humour, frustration, feeling angry, feeling resentful, persistent self-doubt, losing a sense of meaning and purpose, working too hard, going it alone a lot, violating other’s boundaries or habitually allowing one’s own boundaries to be transgressed.
It is not always easy to predict initially whether presenting issues have deeper underlying causes as these may only come to light as the therapy proceeds. The general consensus is to begin counselling or psychotherapy with an agreed number of sessions (usually 6), and then to consider whether to plan further therapy. It is important to remember that the duration of counselling / psychotherapy is always up to each individual to decide for themselves.
Therapy sessions usually last for one hour. Many people discover that counselling / psychotherapy can be hard work, and are glad of a Collaborative Working Relationship with their therapist. It may take a few sessions for this relationship to build, and for people to establish themselves as an Active Participant in their own healing. Thus, it is important that people be patient with the process, and to know that some pain may accompany change.