What is the difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy?


I am aware that the words ‘Counselling’ and ‘Psychotherapy’ are often used interchangeably, particularly by clients and members of the general public. However, with the huge increase in training courses and the growing (and very much welcomed) normalisation of counselling and psychotherapy, the definitions of and distinctions between these two professions are becoming clearer.

A couple of years ago I read a piece written by a therapist who’s colleague compared counselling to having painters and decorators in to do important and valuable renovation work. A therapist in her opinion, would be like calling in the builders. Same house, different work, with different processes and different outcomes. A piece in a Spring Issue of Inside Out, (a Journal published by IAHIP) written by Maeve Dooley, a therapist in Drogheda, addresses some of these differences. Here’s her piece.

There are several important differences between the two disciplines. You may not be aware of this but there is a lot of discussion happening in Ireland and Europe about regulation and standardisation recently. This is progress and will lead to higher standards of work and of public safety. Good news for all of us –  and we’re nearly there!

And so I thought given all this recent discussion and writing that I’d share a well written detailed document recently submitted to the Minister of State Kathleen Lynch which aims to clarify the several differences in trainings and skill sets between the two professions. This is with a view to statutory registration and regulation and it is a sign of better and safer times to come! The full text can be read and downloaded here. I am grateful to the ICP for putting this together and for their permission to share it here.

In the European context there is also much work being done on defining and regulating the skills required to call oneself a psychotherapist. I was delighted to be involved in this consultation work myself. The resulting paper was the product of collaborative consultation with psychotherapists all over Europe and in July of 2013 it was completed and submitted to the EAP AGM.

Here is the full text if you’re interested!


If you are left with questions having read this please feel free to contact me or make suggestions for edits to this piece! Any and all feedback is welcome 🙂

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