“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them" quote attributed to Albert Einstein
Individuals, couples, families or groups participate in psychotherapy and/or counselling individually or in groups for many different reasons. It seems the most common reasons people reach out for support and assistance of this kind is when they are emotionally troubled about themselves, or about relationships, or struggling with developmental or life changes.
Many people experience self esteem crisis when they have troubles in any of these areas, or perhaps they recognise their relationship has become troubled and they feel lost, or they are stuck in moving through a developmental life change or life transition, such as ageing, transitions in career, relationships or parenting.
Because sensitive topics are often discussed during sessions, therapists are expected, and ethically and legally bound, to respect client confidentiality. Both Psychotherapy and Counselling thus provide a confidential space where you can share what is challenging or causing difficulties in a safe and non-judgemental environment, and to gain new perspectives about how you can support yourself or approach issues or problems differently can be life changing in itself.
This can greatly enhance your awareness and your own ability to achieve solutions or outcomes that you desire on an ongoing basis. Greater self-awareness, internal healing along with learning and developing more meaningful ways of being in the world facilitates increased intimacy with self and enables us to more readily achieve that with others.
Psychotherapy requires more intense training than counselling, and often tends to involve a longer time of participation by the client, although there are some models of Psychotherapy that have a short term treatment approach such as Cognitive, Brief or Strategic therapy.
The words Psychotherapy and Counselling are often used interchangeably in sessions with client(s); following is a brief overview of the differences of each.
Psychotherapy involves a therapist and client(s) in individuals or groups. In family therapy it may include several family members or in group therapy even other members within a social or job network.
Typically it involves deeper, longer-term work, tackling some of the patterns in our lives that never seem to change, or we have become aware that we can never achieve what we want to even although there seems no clear apparent reason for not doing so. Some examples of a life pattern may be:
Psychotherapy works toward finding the root causes of patterns that block and stop us living a healthier life relationally with ourselves and with others, and can then support you to make real and lasting changes.
Client(s) discuss their issues in an effort to discover the underlying problems and to find constructive solutions. The process can be most beneficial where there is a feeling of safety with the therapist in the environment where the session is taking place, and a foundational therapeutic relationship is built from the therapist’s ability to listen and discuss client(s) issues whilst displaying positive regard and non-judgment.
Psychotherapy is intended to improve mental health, and emotional or behavioural issues of individuals, group, or family relationships. Mental health problems can include psychological, social and somatic dimensions, which often make it hard for people to manage their lives and achieve their goals. Psychotherapy is aimed at these problems, and attempts to help people to solve them via a number of different approaches and techniques which may include accessing the conscious or unconscious mind with a view to inspecting patterns we seem to be stuck in or becoming more aware of the script that we use to run our lives.
Many people mistakenly believe that Psychotherapy is all about digging up the past. How you have learnt to be, what you have learnt to do, the ‘rules’ – spoken or unspoken – that you believe you have to live your life by may indeed be a contributing factor in a current issue or it may be blocking or stopping you achieving the future you desire. Our present behaviours, beliefs and actions have usually come about as a result of our life experiences to date. These can continue to impact our present and create our future, and at some stage may become unuseful for us.
If this is the case, then it can become very useful through psychotherapeutic methods to explore parts of our past, how and where we learnt about relationships, and how we experienced ourselves in relationships as we grew, gain greater awareness of our how our unconscious mind may be influencing us, to uncover how we got to become who we are. Through this process we can learn to change what is no longer useful for us in our adult life.
Awareness of what it is that we do unconsciously or consciously, that no longer serves us well or is now unuseful to us as an adult, brings us choices, personal freedom and as we take action toward the outcome we desire, inevitably increasing self-esteem.
Counselling as a term is often used interchangeably with therapy. The term was originally adopted by the person centred therapist Carl Rogers to distinguish his work from the more medically oriented psychotherapy however the difference has become blurred among lay people.
A general perspective is that counselling deals with ordinary every day problems and issues, while psychotherapy can deal with deeper mental and emotional problems. Counselling is recognised professionally as short-term work on a particular issue with a specific desired outcome, such as dealing with a relationship break-up, support through mourning the death of a loved one or moving to a new country. You outline an issue, set a goal with the counsellor and work towards that together.
The counselling process may help you to share what is emotionally painful or troubling for you in confidence with another. A counsellor can offer you invaluable support in a confidential, safe, non judgemental space, where you can be fully listened to, learning to share and explore your thoughts and feelings with another in ways that you may never have had the opportunity to do, or may not be able to do outside of session. From this you can become aware of different perspectives, or of ways of relating that may no longer be useful for you now, and can help you come to terms with life as it is for you now.