Counseling Isn’t Psychotherapy

Counseling Isn’t Psychotherapy

Many folks, including some clinicians, use the terms counseling and therapy as if they are interchangeable. Many clinicians engage almost exclusively in the use of counseling techniques and mistakenly call what they do as psychotherapy. This is a serious pet peeve of mine. Okay, not really a pet peeve as much as something I consider outrageous and inappropriate and ultimately a dangerous misrepresentation of education/skill/technique level.

Counseling has as its goals to support and validate, to provide advice, suggestions, and resources, and to offer motivation for change. Those things are great. But they are not therapy. And we should not pay therapy prices for them.

Counseling is something we can often get from friends or family, or even from ourselves through journal writing, meditation or a long walk in the words. When in crises with a particular issue, like domestic violence, or a cancer diagnosis, a recent death of a loved one, or desired career change, we might benefit from seeking out professional counseling by a specialist, frequently in an agency setting, and at an agency price. This won’t result in alterations in how we see ourselves, the people in our lives or our world, but it can help support us through a difficult time when we need to make some quick decisions.

Some therapists offer/use some counseling techniques in sessions with clients, but for the goal of furthering the therapy work.  But when used routinely, counseling skills actually interfere with therapeutic goals.

Here are some of the tactics used by counselors, and why they don’t work so well in therapy.

What does good psychotherapy contain?

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