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There is a lot of overlap between counselling and psychotherapy but there are some important differences. Some clients begin with counselling and stay on for psychotherapy if they are getting the support that they need and want. Counselling is usually shorter term, lasting anything up to about 12 weeks, while psychotherapy can last from several months to several years, depending on the client. In counselling, the therapist is mainly focussing on the client’s immediate needs and conscious processes, that is the thoughts, emotions and situations that they are already aware of in their lives. In psychotherapy, the therapist is also addressing issues that arise from outside the client’s immediate awareness and that offer a deeper understanding of their apparently contradictory feelings, thoughts, desires, actions or relationships. Psychotherapy is usually experienced as being both more challenging and more satisfying to clients who are interested in resolving deeper or more complex personal issues and patterns of behaviour. For example, most people come to therapy with a specific problem, such as a marriage break-up for example. Getting you through the break-up, the “what to do” or “how to cope” stage is largely the task of counselling and it's where clients are likely to begin. “WHY” your marriage broke up; what was your part in it; how is this a pattern you have played out in other relationships; and how does this failed relationship relate to unconscious patterns of which you may be unaware [such as wanting closeness, but pushing people away at the same time]...these much broader and larger questions are the domain of psychotherapy.
Another way of thinking about it is this: if your house is on fire,then the first thing you need to do is to put the fire out. You are not too concerned at this stage as to how or why it started or how to prevent it happening again, (This is the domain of counselling), but once the fire is out,well now you can begin the process of discovery and look for all the factors that contributed to the blaze in the first place. Then you can start to work on what needs to be changed, improved or worked on to prevent it re-occuring again, (That’s the process of psychotherapy). Both counselling and psychotherapy are based on trust, respect for difference, empathetic listening and understanding, non-judgmental acceptance and, of course, confidentiality.

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