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British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

The differences and similarities between counselling, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis

It is widely accepted that counselling is usually focussed on a specific problem occurring in the present or recent past, whereas psychotherapy and psychoanalysis tend to deal with the problems that an individual has encountered in the course of his/her life. Often the source of these issues can be traced back to early life experiences, in childhood or even babyhood.

In practice, many counsellors do help people to explore and understand how previous experiences are affecting them in the present. Often people go into counselling to talk and think about a problem in the present, then start to see it as part of a ‘pattern’ of feelings and behaviours, and then start making connections with when the pattern started, and why.

Another difference between these kinds of therapy is duration. Counselling or 'brief psychotherapy' can be short-term, a few weeks or a few months of (usually) once-weekly sessions. Psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are not usually less than a year or two, and can go on for much longer; sessions can be more frequent than once per week. When people use counselling to explore deeper issues, and it becomes closer to psychotherapy, then often counselling will also become longer term. Psychoanalysts usually have clients who they see several times a week, sometimes five times.

This website is called Personal Counselling because I began as a counsellor. However I now  practice as psychotherapist, usually working longer term and in more depth. In 2011 I also began training as a Jungian Analyst.

Anyone who is accredited by the BACP (the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) will have had a significant amount of personal therapy themselves. Psychotherapists and psychoanalysts will have had a considerable amount, not less than three years and usually much longer. Personal therapy is important for all practitioners, so that there is less chance of our own issues getting muddled up with those of the people we are working with, without us realising. Also, making the journey into therapy can be difficult, and it’s important for us to know what that is like.