What is the difference between counselling, coaching, psychotherapy, etc? Confused?
There are many different professionals, and quite a few overlaps between who does what, so it can feel impossible to choose where to go to get support. Though not everyone will agree with the definitions here, we hope it helps you to deciding which professional to contact. If after reading this you still aren’t sure, give us a call and we will try to point you in the right direction.
A counsellor's training is usally a lot longer than a life coach and coaching techniques may be included in a counsellor's training. It can be confusing to know whether to choose to have counselling, life coaching, or a counsellor who uses coaching techniques. At Spokz People we use different techniques depending on your needs. We can use coaching and CBT skills if you want to work practically or work on future goals. We use counselling to work through negative thoughts, feelings, past experiences or if you are feeling stuck. For more information about the different types of 1-2-1 support, please read on.
Perhaps the best way to look at all these different professionals, is the difficulty of the issue they work with, which is how we have listed them here. The more ‘difficult’ the issue, the more training the professional will have had. Mentoring is then on one end of the scale and the least formal, psychiatry is on the other end dealing with mental illness.
Regardless of whom you choose, always check someone’s qualifications, as well as that they are a member of a national association (with a complaints procedure) and have professional and public liability insurance.
This is a supportive relationship, often provided by someone who offers support by sharing their experiences with you and perhaps advising you from their experience. They may have no qualifications in mentoring, or they may have completed a short course (usually a few weeks). Mentoring ismoreinformal than the other support methods mentioned here. For example, if you have just been diagnosed with MS, you may want to speak to another person with MS and learn from their experiences, and they would then mentor you.
Life coaching is structured support, usually short-term and very focussed, commonly by phone. It aims to help you achieve your goals. It is based only in the present and the future. They will work with you to help you to achieve your goals and may refer you onto a counsellor ortherapist if there are experiences in your past (underlying psychological issues) which are preventing you from moving forward. They may have no qualifications, or they may have completed some training which can vary from 2 days to 2 years. They generally will share some of their own personal experiences with you.
Counsellors and psychotherapists
Counsellors and psychotherapists work with more depth and breadth than life coaches and are trained in psychological insight and theory. They help peopleunderstand the root causes and assist people to develop understanding about themselves and to make changes in their lives. They rarely share their own personal experiences with you as this can distract from your progress. Qualified counsellors and psychotherapists have usually completed 3-5 years training. There are many overlaps between counsellors and psychotherapists, but generallypsychotherapists have usually trained for longer and their training is usually based around psychoanalytic theory which looks at the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the mind and bringing repressed fears and conflicts into the conscious mind. In the past it was generally considered that counsellors dealt with less severe problems and shorter term work, however this is no longer the case. Both counsellors and psychotherapists have, as part of their training, spent a good proportion of time reflecting and analysing their own lives in order to reduce their bias on the client.
Psychosexual therapists and couple/family counsellors
Psychosexual Therapy, known as PST, is treatment by a qualified practitioner which addresses a sexual dysfunction or emotional block within a relationship. PST looks atphysiological and psychological problems which are causing distress. Any physical cause such as medication, alcohol, stress or illness will also be considered. PST is a behavioural programme which openly explores and discusses thesexual problem and looks at emotional blocks for the couple. This is usually a 2 year training programme. Often sex therapists are trained to be couple counsellors as well (a 3-5 year training programme). They will see both parties in a relationship to look at relationship and intimacy issues and help when facing separation, divorce or conflict. They do not necessarily deal with issues such as depression and anxiety: a counsellor or psychotherapist is more likely to do that.
Psychologists study the physical, cognitive, emotional and social aspects of human behaviour, including a medical perspective. They are trained in techniques to diagnose and treat awide range of emotional, behavioural or cognitive problems. Their education is often based onevidence and research and they are able to conduct research studies into effective treatments. To become a registered psychologist you must complete a minimum of 3 years university study in psychology and 2 years supervised practice. They rarely share their own personal experiences with you.
A psychiatrist is a qualified medical doctor who has obtained additional qualifications to become a specialist in the medical diagnosis, treatment and prevention ofmental illness and emotional problems. Psychiatrists have a medical degree, which involves 6 years of university study in general medicine, followed by further study of the mind to specialise in psychiatry. Psychiatrists are the only people from this list who can prescribe medication. Some psychiatrists combine medication with other forms of therapy. They rarely share their own personal experiences with you.