Counselling Canary Wharf
Unit 68 Cannon Workshops
London E14 4AS
07940 516 806
I am a chartered counselling psychologist and psychotherapist. Very often, those seeking a talking therapy do not know exactly what these titles mean and what the difference is between them and between that of counsellor.
It can be confusing to determine which profession is most likely to have the level and focus of training that best suits you. Understanding the difference between the titles of counsellor, psychotherapist and counselling psychologist might help you make a more informed decision.
The government now protects only some talking therapy titles so that the public can be confident that the professional has completed a specific training to a certain standard and abides by regulated ethical criteria. 'Counselling psychologist' is one of these titles ensuring a consistent level of training amongst those using the title. You can find the list of statutory protected titles here. The titles of ‘counsellor’ and ‘psychotherapist’ are not protected by law meaning that anyone can legally call themselves these titles regardless of training or not. However, counsellors and psychotherapists usually follow voluntary guidance set by self-regulatory bodies such as the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapists (UKCP).
With regards to training, it is necessary for those becoming chartered psychologists to have an undergraduate degree in psychology before pursuing further specialist study. Chartered counselling psychologists are expected to do at least a 3-year (full-time) or 5-year (part-time) post-graduate course including research modules. Since 'counsellor' and 'psychotherapist' titles are not protected, there are no legal minimal set training criteria for these professions. Typically, reputable counselling courses are 3-years part-time and psychotherapy courses 5-years part-time; although neither have any requirements for previous further or higher education. If extent of learning is important to you, it is fine for you to ask before starting any therapy with anyone.
Because there is variation in the length of study, the depth and breadth of therapy offered also differs. Roughly, the profession-specific demarcations of emphasis of therapy are as follows: The focus of counselling is usuallly on immediate difficulties and helping the client find a way forward drawing on the client’s current understandings and abilities. Psychotherapists include these skills but also have additional training to encourage a client to look more in-depth at childhood and background. This helps the client identify repetitive patterns and unconscious processes replaying recurring themes over time. Counselling psychologists include and expand on all of these areas of focus to place what clients bring in the wider context of research and the academic literature.
Counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists also have many skills and core knowledge in common. All three are trained to allow you to explore your experience more deeply in the attentive and empathic space of therapy. Therapy is not as effective if you do not feel confident to slowly open up to what you find difficult or perhaps even shameful. So, the most important thing is that you trust your therapist and can form a good relationship with him or her. There is some research showing that choosing the right person for you is more important than deciding on which profession is best.