The difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy

Two wooden figures high-fiving each other  - learn the difference between counselling and psychotherapy with Sarah Tuckett Psychotherapy and Counselling North Brisbane


The difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy

I get asked “What is the difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy?” by most new clients.  To a therapist there are technical differences but to you the customer, not a lot. It’s a case of ‘same same but different’. The difference between counselling and psychotherapy lies in your goals, the length of time you want to spend on your therapy, the types of tasks you want to undertake, and how deep you want to take your process.

Definition of Counselling

According to the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) the definition of counselling is:

“a safe and confidential* collaboration between qualified counsellors and clients to promote mental health and wellbeing, enhance self-understanding, and resolve identified concerns. Clients are active participants in the counselling process at every stage.”

I usually think of counselling as a shorter-term process (say 6-10 sessions) when a client has just one issue they are looking for help with e.g. a relationship breakdown. However, they are not wanting to look deeper than that.


Definition of Psychotherapy

PACFA define psychotherapy as:

“the comprehensive and intentional engagement between therapist and client for the healing, growth or transformation of emotional, physical, relationship, existential and behavioural issues, or of chronic suffering, through well-founded relational processes. The aim of psychotherapy is to support increased awareness and choice, and facilitate the development, maturation, efficacy and well-being of a client.

Psychotherapy involves what is known and what may not be known in personal functioning, usually referred to as “conscious and unconscious factors”. Through a holistic perspective it encompasses the mental, emotional, behavioural, relational, existential and spiritual health of a human being.”

So that shows you that we’re taking the process deeper, looking at:

  • Your patterns of behaviour (e.g. panic attacks or how you in self-sabotage relationships);
  • Your beliefs and thought processes;
  • How historical events in your life may have an impact on your behaviour now;
  • How you behave and feel in relationship with others;
  • Looking at the root causes of problems (and how you may have participated in them).

It takes time for these issues to form in you. So it will take time for us to link experiences together and form new patterns. So somewhere between 6 sessions and many.

This is personal development and personal transformation.


So what does that actually mean for you as the client?

When therapy works well, the client and the therapist take time to talk about the client’s goals, the kind of things they want (and don’t want) to do in therapy, what they want to look at, and the time they want to devote to their personal development.  

So let’s talk.  You and me.  What can I help you with?  What is troubling you?  How are you suffering?   

Would you like to do some movement and breathing in your therapy so that you feel? Or just talk and think your way around things?   

How long do you want to devote to your personal development?  6 sessions?  A year?   

And how will we know when therapy has worked for you?  How can we measure the benefits and progress?  What would we see you doing in your life that you are not doing now?  

I hope this explained the difference between counselling and psychotherapy.  If you have questions feel free to contact me on 0450 22 00 59.


If you would like to ask me what Counselling or somatic psychotherapy is all about, I offer a FREE 15 minute discovery session by phone for new clients.  


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