Counsellor, Therapist, Psychotherapist, Psychologist, psychiatrist. What's the difference?

So you know you need some therapy but then comes the question, Who do I need to see? As a client it can be really confusing when trying to pick a therapist. Navigating the differences between the titles and understanding which professional is going to be most suited to the issues you are struggling with can be tricky. So in this blog I am going to try and break it down for you and dispel some of the confusion.

 

Firstly the reason this gets so confusing is that some of the terms are interchangeable. So often I will refer to myself as a therapist, counsellor and that I work using psychotherapy methods. Putting what I do into a box is quite tricky as it is not just training that defines counsellors but also practical experience. For example I worked in a drug and alcohol rehab for 5 years and so would say I am advanced in helping people in this area, however I do not have a degree in substance misuse. Some counsellors can have many basic certificates that they have completed but may not have much experience. So it is always worth looking for qualifications and experience. Here are some of the most common terms and what they mean.

Qualified Counsellor- This someone who should have done a minimum of 2 years training and hold a diploma or advanced diploma or counselling degree.

 

They may have different backgrounds in theory such as Person centered Psychodynamic, Integrative and Cognitive behavioral therapy. However they are all talking therapies and will have a similar approach to helping you work through your issues.

 

They will work with a multitude of different problems and some will stay more in the here and now, where others will be capable of working with you through you past. The focus is often the relationship between client and counsellor. When choosing a counsellor I would always suggest meeting them for an assessment session before making a decision to sign up to therapy. Go with your instincts on if you gel with them or not and check their qualifications for a minimum of a diploma. It is also advisable to check if they are a membership of a membership body such as BACP or NCS. Counselling can be short term work i.e 4-6 sessions or longer term depending on the issue.

 

Therapist

This is a very broad term used to describe all different types of professionals in the health care profession. It is worth being carful because people often call themselves a therapist but have little or no qualifications for example a 'nature therapist' or 'healing therapist.' Unfortunately there are many people out there thinking they are helping but are actually damaging peoples mental health. Always check peoples qualifications and experience.

 

Psychotherapist

This is someone very similar to a counsellor but who has undergone more training. They will have a strong background in theory and will be trained to work with advanced trauma and childhood issues. This does not mean that a counsellor cannot work with your past or trauma but they will not have as much training as a psychotherapist. As they have done extra training they can cost more but are a very good option for those of you who are wanting to address complex issues. It is also worth noting that they will lean towards more long term work.

 

Counselling Psychologist

This is a medical term and they will also have the title of Dr. Psychologists have training that will cover all the counselling knowledge but they also are required to do a placement in a institutions such as an secure unit or psychiatric unit. They focus mostly on people behaviors and so often have a heavy back ground in CBT. They will be used to working with complexed issues such as bipolar, schizophrenia and other psychosis. Again because of their extra training and experience they can charge more. However it is worth baring in mind this won't necessarily make them a better therapist.

 

Psychiatrist

This person is an actual registered Doctor, so they will have been through all the basic medical training and then specialized in psychiatry. Like a psychologist they often work in a hospital type setting. They can also prescribe medication where are none of the others above can do so. Most people if looking for support would not see a psychiatrist unless suffering from sever mental health conditions.

 

So there you go- as clear as mud right? My best advice to anyone seeking help would be to pick some people that you like the look of and then have an assessment session before you make up your mind. Don't feel you have to 'stick' with a therapist if you don't feel a connection.

 

Anna Honeysett is a Person Centered counsellor working in Ashford Kent and through Skype nationwide. For appointments please see her website or call 07889026560

 

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