‘What is the difference between psychotherapy and counselling?’
This is a frequent question and it can be helpful to have a bit of understanding to what might be the differences and similarities. Research has shown that it is ultimately the relationship between the client and the psychotherapist or counsellor that is most effective however.
Counselling tends to be shorter term, for example 12 weeks and can be helpful in addressing specific issues. Training to become a counsellor can be over a 2/3 year period.
Working with a psychotherapist is often longer term such as up to 6 months and more, and can provide an opportunity to inquire into issues at a deeper level. A psychotherapy training tends to be at a post-graduate level and is usually 4 years or longer. Psychotherapists are also required to undertake their own personal psychotherapy. This enables them to work on their personal issues and supports their capacity to meet the issues of the client, without confusing these with their own.
The model of psychotherapy that I practise uses a mindfulness approach, called the Core Process model. We jointly share the process of bringing awareness to what is happening in the current moment and seeing if we are able to stay with this and explore it more deeply.
What does jointly sharing the process mean? The Core Process model is founded on the principle that we are relational beings and that our understanding and development of ourselves is experienced through how we relate to others. For example, I could not be your psychotherapist if you were not my client and vice versa. We are not sole entities but exist in relation to each other. In the joint process, we pay attention to the thoughts and feelings that arise in the present moment, and also in a bodily felt sense, we notice sensations in the body, where there might be tension, tightness, a feeling of ease. I facilitate and support this process between us.
The practice of mindfulness originates in Buddhist teachings and refers to bringing attention and awareness of what is happening in the present moment without judging this. Relating to our immediate experience allows us the possibility of accessing our inherent health at the core of our being, which is ever available to us, but has become obscured through patterns of conditioning.
Our current experiences tend to be informed by our past conditioning and habits that we develop. Through using awareness, we begin to see that we have adapted around these in order to cope and manage in our lives. However these adaptive strategies may have become less useful to us over time. Our inherent sense of wellbeing can become hidden by these habitual responses that we have formed in our earlier years.
In the therapeutic relationship, compassion and non-judgemental acceptance can bring awareness to these responses, which can free up a more integrated and comfortable way of being.