When talking about mental health and well-being, counselling and psychotherapy can easily seem to be used interchangeably. This makes sense because they're used in a similar context and work in a similar way. However, there are differences between the two, and knowing those differences will help you choose which one is best for you.
How Counsellors and Psychotherapists Are Similar
Counsellors and psychotherapists are similar in many ways — it's possible that they're even the same person. One person practising counselling can also practice psychotherapy, using methods from each depending on the needs of their clients. Counselling and psychotherapy are both methods of talking therapy. They rely on a trusting relationship between a qualified counsellor and their patient, where the patient feels comfortable opening up about their thought processes and feelings so that the counsellor can help work through them.
In either a counselling or psychotherapy session, your counsellor/therapist will guide you through mental health problems and issues in your life. They'll do this by asking you questions, encouraging you to reflect on your thoughts and behaviours, and providing you with feedback. This is so that you can find your own answers and solve your problems without being explicitly told what to do.
This is about where the similarities end, as each practice has its own methods and goals.
What's the Difference?
Counselling and psychotherapy both provide mental health care, but in slightly different ways. Psychotherapy focuses on long-term therapy for deep-rooted issues. You will generally choose to go to psychotherapy if you're experiencing mental health problems over a long period, such as bipolar disorder or generalized anxiety. This long-term counselling is meant to help you deal with chronic or recurrent issues by delving into your past and really focusing on your internal thoughts and feelings. Psychotherapy will do this by employing different methods, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy, and psychoanalytic psychotherapy.
On the other hand, counselling is meant to help you with present issues and short-term problems. You will generally choose to go to counselling if you have some specific issues you need help working through. This could be a big change in your life, such as moving to a new place, getting a new job, or even grieving over the death of a loved one. A counselling session will help walk you through your emotions and behavioural patterns to help you identify what changes you can make to improve your situation and mental health. Counselling can also provide you with the coping tools necessary to get through difficult situations.
Choose What's Right for You
As you can see, while psychotherapy and counselling are similar, it's important to know their differences so that you can decide whether you should be looking for counselling or therapy for yourself. If you have mental health issues or other problems you've been dealing with for a long time and are ready to commit to long-term therapy sessions, psychotherapy is for you. Otherwise, if you're dealing with a newer issue and you want some help getting through it or learning coping tools necessary to help yourself, counselling is the best option. If you're still not sure what you're looking for, you can always get in touch with a counsellor or psychotherapist, and they should be able to help you make the best decision.