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PSYCHOTHERAPY VS. COUNSELING

There are differences...

Although some people use the terms psychotherapy and counseling interchangeably, I do not believe they are the same thing. One is not necessarily better than the other, but they do have different aims and require different preparation and experience on behalf of the mental health provider. 


It can benefit you to know what you are looking for. I am a psychotherapist, not a counselor.


Counseling is a practice that is directive, goal-oriented, providing advice, suggestions, and resources to the patient. This can be helpful if you have a time-limited, short term problem, and function generally well with self-care, work and relationships otherwise. For example, career counseling, pre-marital counseling or you need to make an immediate decision.


Counseling techniques of being directive, giving advice, cheerleading, and offering resources can be helpful, but they are not psychotherapy. These techniques actually get in the way of psychotherapy, a completely different process.


A psychotherapist is trained and experienced to create a safe space, that over time, helps you be honest with the therapist, and with yourself in a way that creates deep, lasting change.


A psychotherapist is trained to carefully listen to the patients conscious, and unconscious, experiences. Over time the therapist can discern patterns of being and relating that cause suffering, stuck-ness and frustration. With artistry and compassion, she eventually helps the patient understand it too.


Psychotherapy is a real relationship.  A well-trained psychotherapist is attuned to her own internal signals and sifts through her own unconscious processes. This helps the therapist offer honest, useful feedback about what it is like to be in relationship with that one unique patient.


A psychotherapist can use counseling techniques, if appropriate, to assist the patient in moving forward.


Psychotherapists have generally spent a great deal of time and energy on their own treatment, so they intimately understand the experience of being a patient.