Jane Polden
Counselling and Psychotherapy

Choosing a Psychotherapist #01

Choosing a Psychotherapist

What is the difference between psychotherapy and counselling?

There is no hard and fast distinction, but counselling tends to focus on more immediate, external difficulties. The work is often short term and at a lower frequency.

Counsellors tend to have a shorter and less intensive training. Psychotherapists are trained to graduate level and beyond and while working with whatever is troubling you now, as counsellors do, tend also to work at a deeper level. A good psychotherapist should be able to help you find connections between whatever is going on now and the underlying patterns, beliefs and expectations in your life which can then, over time, be better understood and resolved. They may notice the significance of something you had never really thought about before, and may be able to help you recognise and process any unspoken distress that is stored inside you.

    The relationship with the therapist is a crucial element in therapy.

    The therapist offers a confidential and private setting which facilitates a process where unconscious patterns can be explored, understood and changed.

    Psychotherapists hold a position of great responsibility towards their patients, and should be registered with one of the reputable national bodies such as the British Psychoanalytic Council. This ensures that your psychotherapist has undergone and satisfactorily completed a lengthy clinical training (to at least Masters level) and that they are appropriately monitored, insured and supervised. It also means that they subscribe to a recognized Code of Ethics. This means that if you should at any time have a problem with your therapist, there is a body to whom you can appeal who will take your problem seriously and offer you a way forward.

      Does the therapist provide a designated and private room and regular sessions?

      Are you treated with respect, and listened to carefully and constructively?

      Does your therapist maintain boundaries and respond thoughtfully to appropriate questions?

    It can be a good idea to seek an initial assessment session with a couple of psychotherapists before making a decision. A reputable therapist will usually offer an initial exploratory session with no further obligation, so you can get your questions answered, and get a sense of whether the relationship will offer you the right ‘fit’.

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