Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Counselling and Psychotherapy: Is There Any Difference?

Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Counselling and Psychotherapy: Is There Any Difference?

Article excerpt


Counselling and psychotherapy are two fields that are often viewed to be the same and used interchangeably. The different definitions on both counselling and psychotherapy are evidences to this fact Efforts will be made in this paper to highlight the different definitions, show the differences and similarities between the two. Examine briefly the various types and approaches of counselling and psychotherapy and their historical background


So often people ask or assume counselling and psychotherapy to be the same. It is very difficult to define counselling and psychotherapy because there is little agreement on the definitions and also on whether there exists any difference between the two. Counselling is a process by which a counsellor provides information and education about a situation and helps the client to an informed choice of what is best to do in their situation. It is a helping process that involves a one to one communication that is aimed at meeting specific needs of the individual (FMHN, 2010). Psychotherapy on the other hand is a process focussed on helping an individual or individuals to heal and learn constructive ways to deal with the problems or issues with the individual's life (Grohel, 2012). It is generally recommended when an individual is grappling with life, relationship or work issue or a specific mental health concern and these issues or concerns are causing the individual a great deal of pain or upset for longer than a few days. Psychotherapy is a frequently used general term in describing the process of treating psychological disorders and mental distress.

Many attempts have been made to differentiate counselling from psychotherapy. Some writers have suggested that counselling is used with normal individuals and psychotherapy with those who are severely disturbed (Sharf, 2008). According to Corsini (2005), counselling is informative and educational while psychotherapy is facilitative. There is yet another distinction based on work setting. Counsellors work in work settings such as the school or guidance clinic while psychotherapists work in hospitals. These differentiations have some flaws. For instance, concluding that counselling is used for normal individuals and psychotherapy for the severely disturbed has the problem of differentiating severity of disturbance since often times than not practitioners use the same set of technique for clients of varying severity levels. Also differentiating them based on work setting is not helpful because the overlap in patient's problem is great regardless of work setting.


Psychotherapy is a general term that refers to therapeutic interaction or treatment contracted between a trained professional and a client, patient, family, couple, or group. Often the problems addressed are dependent on the specialty of the practitioner involved and are mostly psychological in nature and of no specific kind or degree. It is a process that is aimed at increasing an individual's sense of his or her own well-being. It refers to the various therapeutic techniques employed to improve psychological functioning and promote adjustment to life (Ofovwe, 2011).

There are various techniques or approaches to psychotherapy that a therapist can employ. These approaches notwithstanding require a therapeutic relationship, communicating and creating a dialogue and working to overcome problematic thoughts or behaviors or to improve group relationships (such as in a family). Many different types of professionals with different qualifications engage in psychotherapy regularly despite the fact that it is a separate discipline. These individuals include clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, social workers, mental health counselors, occupational therapists and psychiatric nurses.


The word 'counselling' covers a broad spectrum, from someone who is highly trained to someone who uses counselling skills (listening, reflecting back what you say, or clarifying) as part of another role, such as nursing. …

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