Counsellor or Psychotherapist - what's the difference?
What is the difference between a counsellor and psychotherapist?
Though the denominations of counsellor and psychotherapist are often used interchangeably, the consensus is that a psychotherapist is qualified to work with a wider range of clients and offer more in-depth work.
Though counselling and psychotherapeutic work may often overlap, one could say that while a psychotherapist is able to provide counselling, a counsellor may not possess the required training and skills to provide psychotherapy.
The key differences between the two professions can be identified in the following areas:
Type of Service Provided
Counselling work is usually short-term only (i.e 8 sessions), while psychotherapeutic work, though it can also be short-term, traditionally takes longer, depending on the client goals.
There are two governing bodies in the UK which issue guidelines to counsellors and psychotherapists for training and professional standards - the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
Duration of Training
To register with the BACP an individual must have completed a counselling or psychotherapy course that is a minimum of one year full-time or two years part-time with a supervised placement that is a minimum of one hundred hours.
To gain UKCP membership takes an average of five years of both theory (including a Master’s level university degree in psychotherapy) and skills training, with at least four hundred and fifty hours of supervised work with clients. Depending on the university training, a placement within a psychiatric institution is recommended, though not required.
The BACP does not require that a counsellor or psychotherapist undertake their own personal therapy, while the UKCP requires that its members undergo personal therapy for the full duration of their training.￼
Always look to see if the person claiming to be a counsellor or psychotherapist is registered with either the BACP or UKCP or that they are in the process of completing a level of training that enables them to do so.
And what about psychologists and counselling psychologists?
Psychologist training focuses on carrying out research. A counselling psychologist would have followed a psychologist training including two years of counselling training.
Useful Links UKCP – United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy http://www.psychotherapy.org.uk
BACP – British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy http://www.bacp.co.uk