Key differences between psychotherapy and counselling

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Sayani Banerjee
Sayani Banerjee

The word psychotherapy means caring for another person’s soul or being, as derived from the Greek word “psyche” meaning “soul” or “being” and “therapeutikas” meaning “caring for another”. A useful definition, developed by Norcross (1990), follows:

Psychotherapy is the informed and international application of clinical methods and interpersonal stances derived from established psychological principles for the purpose of assisting people to modify their behaviors, cognitions, emotions, and other personal characteristics in the direction that the participant seems desirable.

Counseling and psychotherapy are two terms that are often confused with each other, due to their interchangeable usage in psychiatry and overlapping nature regarding several features. However, there are some significant differences between the two -

1. Counseling is a short-term process, which focuses on one individual issue at a time, thereby finding a process to overcome it.

Psychotherapy is a long-term process that involves long periods of working with clients in order to uncover the foundation of the problem and address it in the most efficient direct or indirect manner.

2. Counselling usually deals with people with good coping skills who are fit enough to think rationally and find solutions to their problems by themselves when a little supporting hand is provided by the counselor.

Psychotherapy mainly involves individuals who are dependent on the psychotherapists to gain control over their personality, mind, emotions, and behavioral patterns.

3. Counseling focuses on present problems and situations. Psychotherapy focuses on recurrent or chronic problems.

4. Counseling is focused on action and behavior. However, psychotherapy is focused on feeling and experience.

5. Counselling generally involves talk therapy. Psychotherapy may include testing (such as personality, and intelligence), talk therapy, or other therapies such as CBT.

6. Counseling is a secondary process and psychotherapy is a primary process.

7. Counselling requires an educational setting and psychotherapy demands a medical setting.

8. The operational area is extensive in counseling and the same for psychotherapy is deep.

9. Counseling is concerned with re0educative and supportive goals. Psychotherapy is concerned with re-constructive goals.

10. Counseling involves more suggestions and advising however psychotherapy includes diagnostic interpretation and treatment.

Despite the differences, there are many similarities between counseling and psychotherapy, and even with the distinction, counseling often includes some psychotherapy and psychotherapy often includes some counseling.

Read more on: Counseling Psychology


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