One of the most common queries any Counsellor will get is “What’s the difference..?” And it’s a good question.
What is the difference, for example, between a Counsellor and a Psychotherapist, a Counsellor and a Psychologist or a Counsellor and a Social Worker? At the end of this post you’ll find a guide (published by The Australian Counselling Association) to help point you in the right direction, but it’s worth noting that even this excellent guide isn’t exhaustive.
Our mental health can be supported in many ways. Mental Health Occupational Therapists frequently work with individuals experiencing Psychosocial Disability to provide strategies to improve their experience of the ‘occupations’ of daily life, an Endocrinologist may be able to help navigate the mental health impacts of physiological challenges such as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, while a Geriatrician will be able to help manage the psychological impacts of memory loss and Dementia. Trauma Informed Yoga, Art Therapy or EMDR practitioners can also help support healing when “talk therapy” doesn’t feel right.
Many people working in these “helping professions” also use methods that overlap. Counsellors, Psychotherapists and Psychologists, for example, all use a “talk therapy” approach at least some of the time, and many also use the ‘common factors’ approach to therapy, which recognises that positive personal change happens when your relationship with your therapist is collaborative and safe, you feel your therapist is competent, and that they have an approach to supporting your growth that feels consistent.
The best way to know which kind of professional is right for you is to ask! A good therapist will make sure that you’re on the right path very early in your journey – often before you book your first session – and any skilled professional will let you know when they believe you might do better with another approach.
A final point is to make sure your therapist (of whatever kind) is registered with their relevant professional association. For Counsellors that would be the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) or PACFA (which is the primary registration body for Psychotherapists).
If in doubt, check it out! But in the meantime for a great primer on where to get started, read on…