TRACEY HASSELLPsychodynamic Counselling

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Counselling or Psychotherapy?

It can be confusing trying to work out wether you are seeking counselling or something more psychotheraputic. I hope the following helps.

A counsellor generally puts their focus to what’s happening to you in the present. This could be difficulties at work/home, one specific traumatic event such as, having a baby, a bad break up, losing your job, bereavement or just feeling more stressed than usual. A counsellor will look at your immediate presenting symptoms and behaviour (e.g. feeling more anxious than usual) and how that’s impacting your life, rather than delving deeper into your childhood or past.

Similar to a counsellor, a psychotherapist will also provide a safe environment for you to share your thoughts and concerns, and work towards helping you manage challenging emotional patterns and habits. However, they will take a slightly different focus to that of a counsellor.

Generally speaking, a psychotherapist’s approach is more in-depth. This means that a psychotherapist will turn their focus to emotions and experiences you encountered growing up - as a child and young adult - as well as your presenting symptoms and issues, in order to shed light on how these experiences have shaped who you are today.

A psychotherapist will place an emphasis on creating a space for you to feel comfortable to open up and share experiences from your past. The idea being that once these buried experiences (and their accompanying emotions) are brought to the surface, they can be consicously thought about, processed, and ultimately, released. For this reason, psychotherapy is normally once or twice a week (sometimes more) and long-term (6 months to several years), allowing you the time and space to fully open up.

Whilst a counsellor might be more focused on helping you with symptoms (anxiety, stress, difficulties sleeping etc.), a psychotherapist also works with mental health conditions that have developed over a longer period of time. This means a psychotherapist will work with more complex mental health conditions too, such as PTSD and long-term anxiety disorders. Also, depending on their approach, a psychotherapist might choose to use counselling techniques alongside psychotherapy as part of their treatment plan.

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