Psychopedagogical Association


About psychotherapy and counselling

Therapy is the process of meeting with a counsellor or psychotherapist to address behavioural, belief, emotional, life or business situations. Therapy uses an interpersonal relationship to help the client develop their problems and make changes in their life.

Although there is considerable overlap between counselling and psychotherapy, there are also differences. Whereas the work of both counsellors and psychotherapists with clients can be very detailed and lengthy, counselling is more likely to focus on specific problems, life readjustment changes and supporting the client's wellbeing. Psychotherapy is more interested in personality restructuring.

Some key points about therapy:

  • Therapy can take place in groups or individually depending on needs, issues etc.

  • The client can decide on their therapist and style of therapy.

  • One unit of the therapy process lasts approximately one hour.

  • The therapy process includes a period of initial interview and getting to know each other.

  • The therapist and client play an equal role in the therapy process. There is no 'superior person' in the therapeutic relationship.

  • The therapist's intention is that the therapy process should be safe, supportive and aim to resolve the problem.

  • Everything that happens in therapy is confidential, except when someone's safety is at risk.

Definitions of counselling and psychotheraphy

Psychopedagogical Association members are professionals who build valuable therapeutic relationships with clients to help them cope with their challenges. The therapy or counselling process utilises a variety of methods from a range of resources, philosophical approaches and advanced training undertaken by practitioners. There is a wide range of definitions of counselling and psychotherapy around the world, as the practice and its understanding varies from country to country, region to region, culture to culture. One of the most relevant issues for clients is what the focus of the therapeutic or counselling intervention is. Below are some sample definitions that may help a client's understanding and choice of clinician.

What is counselling?

According to Canadian Counselling & Psychotherapy Association, counselling is "the skilled and congruent use of relationships to facilitate self-discovery, emotional acceptance and growth, and the optimal development of personal resources".

According to the College of Counselling PACFA, professional counselling is a safe and confidential collaboration between qualified counsellors and clients to promote mental health and wellbeing, increase self-understanding and resolve identified problems.

Clients are active participants in the counselling process at every stage. Counsellors work with children, adolescents, adults, couples, families and groups. Counselling can be short-term, long-term or lifelong, depending on the client's needs.

Counsellors are fully present with clients, using empathy and deep listening to establish positive working relationships. Counselling is effective when clients feel safe, understood, respected and accepted without judgement. Counselling is a profession with a strong evidence base. Counsellors use empirically based interventions and specialised interpersonal skills to facilitate change and empower clients.

Counsellors are trained in various forms of working with clients from diverse backgrounds. Counselling can be broad or focused.

Clients may explore: aspects of identity, spirituality, relationships with self and others, past experiences, parenting, grief and loss, trauma, domestic violence, child abuse, alcohol and other substance use, depression, anxiety and other experiences.

Changes fostered by counselling include a change in perspective, new insight, new ways of thinking about situations, a new awareness of feelings, an increased ability to tolerate and regulate feelings, new actions or behaviours, and new decisions about life.

Counsellors registered with the Psychopedagogical Association have an appropriate professional level dependent on experience, education and performance. They are expected to participate in ongoing professional development and supervision, including their own counselling or therapy, to stay abreast of developments in their profession and to ensure safe, ethical practice.

*Confidentiality is limited where there is a risk to the safety of the client or others.

What is psychotherapy?

In contrast, according to College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario - CRPO "the practice of psychotherapy involves the assessment and treatment of cognitive, emotional or behavioural disorders through psychotherapeutic means delivered through a therapeutic relationship based primarily on verbal or non-verbal communication".

The PACFA College of Psychotherapy has developed this definition of psychotherapy:

Psychotherapy is a holistic engagement that focuses on a person's mental, emotional, relational or spiritual health. It is useful when psychological, developmental, relationship and well-being issues arise in one's life. The psychotherapist engages with an individual or group in a process of working together to build understanding and acceptance of how the person is making sense of their life. Together they create life-giving solutions to old and new problems.

There are different varieties of psychotherapy. Some of the most popular worldwide include: - Cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, psychoanalytic psychotherapy (psychoanalysis), Hypnotherapy (Therapeutic Hypnosis), Gestalt therapy, Buddhist psychotherapy, psychodrama, somatic sychotherapy.

The psychotherapist and client work together to understand the conscious and unconscious dimensions of the client's current lived experience. A key element of psychotherapeutic practice is the relationship between therapist and client. This process may include looking at how past histories affect a person's daily life as well as their future. Collectively, they may relate to personal history, experiences in the family of origin, relationship history, imagination, illness, as well as sexuality, spirituality, ethnicity and culture. A lot of people come to a psychotherapist because they are suffering discomfort, dissatisfaction or distress in their lives. Some come in search of further self-development. Psychotherapists work with people who have a wide variety of difficulties: depression, anxiety, insomnia, eating problems, illness, addiction, trauma, abuse, relationship difficulties in their personal lives or at work, problems with communication, intimacy and commitment.