Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, especially online, counselling and psychology are not the same.
When researching on the internet, the terms may be used in such a way that it’s very hard to decide what you really need. It can be even more confusing because a psychologist may perform short-term counselling, but the reverse is not true of a counsellor.
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Here are the basic differences between the two.
Counsellor versus Psychologist
In Australia, the practice of psychology is highly regulated, while that of counselling is not.
A counsellor might have no more than a three-day course of training, or might be prepared at the master’s level. The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) does require that its members complete a minimum of 350 hours of person-to-person training as well as 50 hours of supervision over at least three years.
Psychology, however, requires the completion of a minimum of six years of training. This training includes a minimum of one to two years of supervised clinical practice as well as university study. In many cases, psychologists are trained to PhD level. Psychologists must also be registered to work in Australia.
What is Counselling?
Counselling is typically concerned with immediate and practical issues such as processing grief or anger, helping the client identify options when making important personal or professional decisions, or building better interpersonal or communication skills.
A counsellor might work with a client to learn how to better manage conflicts in relationships or to clarify his or her values on a particular topic. Counselling is typically short-term. The focus in counselling is to the client’s concerns and difficulties as well as understanding how patterns of behaviour, thoughts and feelings can cause problems in daily life.
What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is used in long-term treatment of mental illness and to help clients conduct an intensive and extensive examination of their psychological history.
Psychotherapy focuses on helping clients understand their lives in a profoundly reflective manner.
Although psychotherapy may use many of the same techniques as those used in counselling, it goes much deeper in an attempt to uncover the root cause of problems. For example, childhood abuse may result in deep-seated convictions of inferiority or anger.
The goal of the psychotherapist in these cases is to free the client from unconscious triggers or impulses through increasing the client’s self-awareness and control.
Counsellors typically work in fields such as marriage and family counselling, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, or career and guidance fields. They may be found in mental health clinics, child and aged centres, youth welfare or marriage guidance services.
Psychologists have practical and research skills that may be applied in many fields, including health, education and management. They may work with both mentally ill and emotionally healthy clients who need help understanding behavioural problems.
In addition to performing direct clinical psychotherapy, psychologists may work as behavioural scientists, in human resource management, marketing and clinical research. Their work settings include private practice, hospitals, schools, laboratories and universities and consulting firms.
Counsellors and psychologists often collaborate when serving patients. Again, remember that psychologists may use counselling techniques as well as psychotherapy.