Therapy & Counseling

What is the difference between therapy and counseling?

 

This is a good question and it is usually left unanswered.

 ‘Counseling’, ‘therapy’, and ‘psychotherapy’ are title words that grew from different traditions in the helping field. However, professionalization and standardization of practices in the last fifty years have erased their real difference. Current differences are more a matter of tradition and regional culture than of actual practice.

Historically, «therapists» and «psychotherapists» treated mental health problems, while «counselors» focused on career and personal development. Today, the field of mental health has grown enough, and has accumulated enough scientific evidence, to establish that people benefit from a combination of both healing and personal development. 

As long as the helper is licensed, whether as counselor or therapist, e.g. psychologist, mental health counselor, social worker, or family therapist, he/she will use unified shared principles, scientific knowledge, theories, techniques, and clinical methods accepted as standard.

There is solid evidence that quality therapy and counseling are effective. They are more effective than placebo. Effectiveness is context and situation dependent.

A main factor in successful therapy is the quality of the relationship between the therapist or counselor and client or patient. Trust, hope, warmth, availability, responsiveness, and perceived honest care make the client-therapist relationship work.

Therapists and Counselors are caring, empathic, aware, attentive, and supportive.
The relationship is a collaboration that values and empowers the uniqueness of the client.
Providers keep high ethical standards at all times and make the relationship fully focused on benefiting the client.

Providers consult with experienced colleagues, supervise and seek consultation with a specialist when necessary, train, and maintain ongoing professional development.

Both counselors and therapists can diagnose and treat mental health conditions, including: anxiety, depression, personality disorders, attention deficits, trauma, phobias, mood disorders, addictions, conditions impacting function.

The goals of treatment include relief, healing, improving functioning, and strengthening resources.
Priorities are set to bring relief, care for immediate needs, improve functioning, and activate available and new resources.
A person can be healthy and functional and have specific areas of symptoms or distress to treat.
Clients can be called «patients».

Treatment ends when goals have been met and both provider and client/patient agree that the counseling or therapy is no longer needed.

 

Usually short-term, with emphasis on problem solving and practical counseling interventions.

Based on learning and practice for skill development. Some counseling interventions include: Situational analysis, solution-focused understandings, action plans, decision making, motivational analysis, behavioral activation, and in-between-session homework

Few sessions. Short term.

Helps partners understand their situation from new perspectives. Attends to cross-cultural and personal differences.

Creates conditions for safe and positive dialogue, to help develop trust and motivation to work together.

Goals are set to address very defined issues, while helping partners understand processes and their relationship dynamics.

Teaches skills and motivates partners to try new attitudes, cognitions, behaviors, and ways of relating.

Helps create options that respects and integrates individual preferences.
In bicultural couples, cultural sensitivity and competency help members appreciate differences.
Helps members speak safely and constructively.
Assesses level of functioning and group needs.
Helps family members understand family dynamics.
Promotes positive boundaries.
Uses techniques to create new ways family dynamics.
Helps members recognize differences and appreciate diversity within the family.
Facilitates plans for the future.

Therapy, psychotherapy, and counseling are all designed to support intentional change.

We may experience clear, unclear, ambivalent, and contradictory motives to change. 

The role of therapy can be to help the client clarify and define the type of personal change to seek through sessions.

We define initial goals, assess, plan together, start intentional change, assess again, create new understandings and possibilities for behaviors and experiences.

We can change. There are limits. We can also create, adapt, accept, and find wisdoms that will help us improve our quality of life.

Life abroad presents unique challenges. It also offers unique opportunities for positive personal transformations.

Psychotherapy in English, by a culturally sensitive clinician, can offer conditions of familiarity, ease, and resonance that will facilitate being understood and the experience of support.

"Wherever you go, there you are" says the wisdom. After a period of novelty, it is normal to repeat problematic behaviors, cognitive patterns, emotional experiences, and relationship dynamics, in the local environment. Psychological help aims to support people in understanding such patterns and finding ways of transforming them.

Regardless your level of rootedness: local, migrant, expat, digital nomad, my therapy approach makes it a priority to attend to biological, psychological, and social nourishment. "Psychobiosocial care", I call it. We call it. I'll be delighted to tell you more about it when we speak.

Because psychotherapy, therapy, counseling, and psychological care help people address their concerns, in the context of their real lives, the topics and issues brought to sessions are extensive. Here is a VERY short list of common issues brought to sessions:

Cultural shock. Self-doubt. Fear of rejection. Decision uncertainty. Lack of concentration. Isolation. Physical pain. Relationship problems. Longing for home. Work stress.

Distressing fears. Difficulty planning. Uncertainty about the future. Social anxiety. Challenges creating a narrative about self. Anger. Symptoms, specially anxiety and depression. Adjustment difficulties. Needing a change. Wanting support creating new solutions to old problems. Getting unstock.