What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy, between a counsellor and a psychotherapist?

Claire McCluskey
M.Sc. B.A. Relate Cert C.C.
Registered Counsellor BACP & UKRC

Coast Road, Rhyl, LL18 3PL
07551 529 386

Counselling and Psychotherapy

"There is considerable overlap in that much psychotherapy is about overcoming personal difficulties and facilitating change in the ways already described in relation to counselling.

The methods used in psychotherapy are similar and in some instances identical to those used in counselling. If there are differences, then they relate more to the individual psychotherapist's or counsellor's training and interests and to the setting in which they work, rather than to any intrinsic difference in the two activities.

In private practice a psychotherapist is more likely to accept clients whose need is less severe than in a hospital setting. Similarly, in private practice a counsellor's work will overlap with that of a psychotherapist.

Those counsellors, however, who work for voluntary agencies or in educational settings such as schools and colleges usually concentrate more upon the ‘everyday' problems and difficulties of life than on the more severe psychological disorders; though many are qualified to offer, and do in fact engage in, therapeutic work which in any other context would be called psychotherapy.

Both psychotherapists and counsellors are capable of deciding whether or not they should seek further medical and psychiatric advice, and are normally able to make referrals to appropriate specialists, though frequently this can only be done in consultation with the client's own GP (doctor)."

(Taken from British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy C2 Information Leaflet What is Counselling)

Recommended additional reading:

BACP (2010). Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Lutterworth: BACP.

Please refer to other Client Info Sheets and to the Info Sheets for practitioners:

BACP Information Sheet. C1 How to get the best out of Your Therapist, Tessa Roxburgh, (2008)

BACP Information Sheet. C2 What are counselling and psychotherapy? Pauline Driscoll (2010)

BACP Information Sheet. C3 Choosing a counsellor or psychotherapist. Heather Dale (2010)

BACP Information Sheet. T2 Counselling & Psychotherapy