You would like to seek help from a mental health professional to deal with a difficult time in your life. You have searched the web and found quite a few options, but you remain unsure on what direction to take. What is best, counselling or psychotherapy?
Finding the right support at times of need may indeed be daunting, especially for those who have never had therapy before. I hope this helps you clarify some of that confusion.
The difference between counselling and psychotherapy
Despite being used interchangeably and for the same purpose, the term “psychotherapy” is associated with more complex issues that require a longer period for being treated. “Counselling”, on the other hand, would focus on more current and pressing problems that have been affecting the client in his or her recent past. In practice, both psychotherapists and counsellors have a great array of tools to foster personal growth and an improvement in quality of life.
What truly makes a difference
Engaging in the old and often tiresome debate concerning the accurate use and meaning of the terminology “counselling” and “psychotherapy”, however, will probably make you none the wiser with regards to what is best for you. Numerous studies have demonstrated that a positive outcome for therapy is greatly dependent upon the relationship between a client and his or her therapist (formally referred to as the “therapeutic alliance”) and not on his or her credentials. Unfortunately, the quality of that relationship cannot be measured or even determined by a therapist’s academic or professional title. As it is has been argued in a recent study carried out by a group of researchers from the University of Turin (Italy) and the University of South Australia (see full reference below), the defining element remains the quality of the relationship itself:
“The emerging picture suggests that the quality of the client–therapist alliance is a reliable predictor of positive clinical outcome”
Bearing in mind the relevance of the client-therapist relationship, I highly recommend you to focus on how you feel when interacting with that potential counsellor or psychotherapist rather than on his or her title. Do you feel heard and understood? Can you see yourself counting on that relationship for emotional support, as you gather the courage to explore your fears and other negative emotions? Do you believe that he or she is able to help you make positive changes in your own life?
If in doubt, you probably need to find somebody else. If you answer “Yes!” to all the questions above, there is a much higher probability that he or she will help you deal with whatever is troubling you. If you would like to get to know me and find out if I can be of help, please request an appointment here
Ardito, R.B. & Rabellino, D. (2011). Therapeutic Alliance and Outcome of Psychotherapy: Historical Excursus, Measurements, and Prospects for Research. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 270.
Published online 2011 Oct 18. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00270