What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

There is no single agreed definition or mutual understanding within the counselling and psychotherapy profession about how to define these areas and what the differences are between them.


There are professional bodies associated with both counselling and psychotherapy and both define these terms differently.  For example, the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) which has long been established with the counselling profession and more recently with psychotherapy describes counselling and psychotherapy as an “umbrella term covering  range of talking therapies” (BACP, 2016). 


The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), is the largest professional body for psychotherapy, describing its members as providing safe, expert talking therapy which helps people with emotional, social or mental health problems (UKCP, 2016)


There are distinct differences between counselling and psychotherapy in terms of qualification and registration.  Counselling qualifications are generally studied part time over two years or full time over a year and involve a 150 hours of supervised counselling practice. Psychotherapy training involves four years post graduate study, 750 hours of supervised practice and 40 hours a year of personal psychotherapy.   There are separate additional professional requirements that need to be met to achieve accredited status for example, to professional bodies such as the BACP.


Counselling and Psychotherapy are perceived and interpreted differently by groups of people such as others practitioners in the profession and by the wider public.  What is important is to find a therapist whether counsellor or psychotherapist that you feel you can work with and is a ‘good fit’ for you.


My view as both an accredited BACP counsellor and Advanced Trainee TA psychotherapist is that although there is some overlap, that there is a distinct difference between the identities of these two fields.    When people come to see me, they may want help to resolve specific problems and want to take steps to resolve them. Sometimes people come wanting help with broader overall patterns, issues and recurring feelings, and in doing so come with an openness and willingness to explore the past and the impact it is having on the present.  Often I find clients come wanting help working on one aspect or issue and later agree with me a new focus for other aspects of their work with me.


I believe that it is possible to resolve past experiences and lay the foundations for a more satisfying future through work therapeutically with both the conscious and unconscious behaviours. I will be curious about all aspects of you.