Frequently Asked Questions

There are many similarities between these two ways of working with people. Both are ‘talking cures’ that aim to support people in making changes in their lives and improvements to their emotional and psychological well-being.

Typically, counselling helps a person to address a specific difficult situation or experience, whereas psychotherapy supports a person to make more fundamental changes to their way of engaging in life.

Psychotherapists provide a ‘talking cure’ to help people to find ways to address their psychological and emotional difficulties. Typically, psychotherapists provide weekly sessions over an extended period. As part of their training, psychotherapists are required to be in therapy themselves – so they have their own personal experience of benefitting from this process.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialise in treating mental health problems, including severe disorders, and they can prescribe medication. Often they only meet their patients for periodic reviews at longer intervals, say once every three or six months.

Psychologists have training in administering psychological tests and evaluating the results; some psychologists, called clinical psychologists, have specific training in working with individual patients.

There are many different theories and approaches, each of which has its own underlying philosophy. A broad categorisation is between humanistic and psychoanalytic approaches.

Humanistic approaches emphasise the integrity and wholeness of each person, working through an exchange of dialogue based on what a person knows about themselves.

Psychoanalytic approaches put emphasis on the influence of past experiences, especially in the early years of life, in shaping our day to day ways of being; there is a strong interest in what is unconscious, that is what a person doesn’t know about themselves.

Typically, a humanistic way of working will be more interactive and conversational than a psychoanalytic way of working which tends to be a more silent style. Increasingly, psychotherapists are drawing on a range of approaches, both humanistic and psychoanalytic, and blending them into an integrative model of psychotherapy that allows for different ways of responding to each person’s individual needs.

Once you have satisfied yourself that a therapist has sufficient training and is registered with an appropriate professional body, research shows that an important factor that contributes to a successful outcome is the quality of the therapeutic relationship that develops. Therefore, it is important to trust your own judgement – and it may be worthwhile to meet with several therapists before choosing one to work with.

There is no simple, universal answer to this question because there are many factors that contribute to the duration of a course of therapy. One factor is the goals or outcomes that you define when you start, which might be narrowly or more broadly focused. Another is the choices you make about what you discover as the therapy unfolds and how much attention you wish to give to these new insights. 

Some people find a short series of six to twelve sessions may be sufficient, while other people find value in continuing for six months, or twelve months, or for a number of years. This is a question to explore in an initial assessment. Ultimately, each person makes their own choice according to their own needs, wishes, and circumstances.

Each of these ways of working has its own strengths and its own challenges. For some people the privacy of individual sessions, which allows them to develop at their own pace and guide the focus of the work, is very important. For other people there may be more to gain from working through some of the challenges and complexities of being in a therapy group as this can help them to navigate similar difficulties in their daily life. This is a question to explore in an initial assessment.