What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

The terms counselling and therapy (or psychotherapy) are very often used to mean the same thing.  There are some differences:

  • Length of training: Counsellors generally have 3 years training, though this varies. I am told some counselling courses can be completed online. (How that is done I’m not really sure!).  Psychotherapists generally have 2 more years on top of this. I am a counsellor who also has training in CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy).
  • Personal therapy:  Psychotherapists are required to undergo a lot of personal therapy themselves. Counselling courses vary in terms of how much personal counselling/therapy is required. Where I trained at Re-Vision weekly sessions with at least 35 sessions per year was required, which is probably a maximum for counselling courses. 
  • Duration:  Psychotherapy may be longer term or open ended. Counselling may be short term, longer term or open ended.
  • Focus:  A shorter period will obviously need to be more focused on one particular issue, whilst longer term or open ended counselling or therapy can be more fluid and exploratory. 

A note on structure, or how directive the counsellor / therapist is:  Counselling has a reputation for being non-directive, but how directive or structured a counsellor or therapist is will depend on their approach and training. In either case attuned and sensitive listening is a cornerstone of the process. As a counsellor I do lead the process so as to make the time spent in sessions as productive as possible for the client, and the training is all about gaining insight into and experience of how to do this.