Counselling. Therapy. Is it for you?
Debunking the myths
Deciding to see a psychotherapist or a counsellor does not mean you are unable to cope. Nor does it mean you lack friends and someone to talk to. A therapist will not tell you what to do – a good practitioner will provide the kind of listening to help you to reflect and think for yourself, so you can make the best choices possible.
Many people engage with counselling or psychotherapy to sort out something that is troubling them – and very often they feel they do not want to burden family and friends with the talking or reflecting that may be necessary to understand their feelings in the first place. Others want to talk to an objective observer, someone uninvolved in the situation who will not feel threatened by difficult feelings.
An analogue to describe the therapeutic relationship is that of hiring a physical trainer at the gym. You want to get into shape, you may or may not know what you need to do, but you probably lack the motivation and discipline to do it (sometimes the nerve, too). You hire someone to help you overcome barriers to getting in shape. A counsellor or a therapist will take the journey of change with you, providing an empathic stance to help you identify and overcome your own obstacles and hurdles to becoming a more self-aware and happier person.
What is the difference between a counsellor and a psychotherapist?
A counsellor may be more likely to work short-term providing a listening ear while a psychotherapist will work longer-term addressing unresolved issues from the past. The type of therapy you engage in (that will depend on the concerns you bring to therapy) will probably determine the type of practitioner you will ultimately work with.
Types of counselling
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the current ‘treatment of choice’ in the NHS. CBT provides tools and techniques to reduce symptoms of depression, panic attacks, phobias, post-traumatic stress and generalised anxiety disorder. It is a short-to-medium term intervention.
Humanistic practitioners tend to view the person as a work-in-progress heading towards his/her ultimate potential. Challenges along the way present opportunities for becoming self-aware and for growth.
Psychodynamic psychotherapies tend to focus on the past and its influence on the present. According to psychological theory, our patterns of feeling, thinking and behaving were established in early childhood. Our struggles in the present are a sign that difficulties from the past are being triggered and re-enacted.