The Difference Between Psychotherapy and Counselling

This blog was written by CFSSC Clinician: Catherine Davey, RSW, MSW Candidate

The terms counseling and psychotherapy are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle and distinctive difference.

Psychotherapy defined

Psychotherapy is often treatment-based to address mental health issues such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders etc. It can be used in tandem with medication but this isn’t always the case.

Psychotherapy focuses on gaining insight into chronic physical and emotional problems. Its focus is on the client’s thought processes and way of being in the world, rather than specific problems.

Counselling defined

The term counselling is generally used to describe a relatively brief treatment that is focused mostly upon behavior. It predominantly targets a specific symptom or problematic situation and fosters awareness and discernment for dealing with it. Counselling tends to be wellness-based and provides increased insight and learning in order to overcome problems and challenges.

Similarities and Differences

Even though there are differences, the professional who is facilitating the counselling or psychotherapy is frequently the same person. The approach is determined by the presenting problem of the client.

Both counselling and psychotherapy can overlap. A therapist can provide counselling with certain situations and a counsellor can use psychotherapy in their approach. Both psychotherapy and counselling can use the same therapeutic theories and frameworks. However, generally, psychotherapy is conducted by professionals trained to practice psychotherapy such as registered psychologists, social workers, or psychotherapists. While a psychotherapist is qualified to provide counselling services, a counsellor may or may not have the training and skills to provide psychotherapy.

Our Trained Staff

At Catholic Family Services, clinicians have at least a Masters degree and are registered with a professional College. Registration is a legal requirement for practitioners who wish to use the titles, social worker or psychotherapist. Most importantly, being registered with a College provides the public with protection from unqualified, incompetent or unfit practitioners, and holds them accountable.

If you have any additional questions about terms used in the clinical world, or about the qualifications of our clinical team – please do not hesitate to contact us.