What is Therapy?

Looking for counselling or therapeutic help can feel overwhelming. There are countless professionals offering help, coming from a multitude of disciplines, with a vast number of different qualifications.

 

This list, (which is not exhaustive), is designed to help understand the differences between the various professions:

 

Psychiatrist:

A doctor who has trained at medical school and chosen this specialism. A psychiatrist deals predominantly with diagnosable mental illness and can prescribe medication as a way of treating a condition.

 

Psychologist:

A practitioner who studies human behaviour and the way people function at a mental and emotional level.

 

A psychologist generally uses standardised tests to measure individual performance.

 

There are numerous specialisms within psychology including clinical psychology and educational psychology.

Counsellor:

A practitioner trained to give guidance on psychological problems. As opposed to psychotherapy, counselling is often short term or time limited and focuses on a specific issue. Counselling uses talking as a main technique of working with clients.

Mother of 15-year-old boy

Psychotherapist:

A practitioner trained to help people look at their life issues. Rather than focusing on the presenting problem, a psychotherapist may explore a client’s life patterns and his or her whole personal story.

 

There are many similarities between the work of a psychotherapist and a counsellor. A psychotherapist (or therapist for short) may at times call himself or herself a counsellor to avoid confusion.

 

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist

A psychotherapist who has been trained specifically to work with children, able to work psychotherapeutically through play as well as through speech.

 

Psychoanalyst:

A psychotherapist who has trained in a theoretical perspective of therapy called psychoanalysis. It was founded by Sigmund Freud and followed by Carl Jung and Melanie Klein amongst others. Patients receiving psychoanalysis will generally have between 3 and 5 sessions of analysis a week.

  

Creative Arts Therapist:

Creative Arts Therapists  (also called Expressive Therapists) are practitioners who draw on various creative or expressive interventions within a psychotherapeutic framework to foster awareness and encourage emotional healing and growth.
 

Creative arts therapies include:
 

  • Art Therapy

  • Play Therapy

  • Music Therapy

  • Dance and Drama Therapy

     

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of talking therapy that focuses on how thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect feelings and behaviour, and teaches coping skills for dealing with different problems.

 

It combines cognitive therapy (examining the things you think) and behaviour therapy (examining the things you do).

 

CBT is generally a short term, time limited intervention.

 

Final Thoughts

While the above specialisms vary, one aspect that all share is the central importance of the relationship between the client (or patient) and therapist. Without that relationship, simply put, being able to get on well and to trust the therapist, making use of the therapy on offer is impossible.
 

When looking for a therapist it is sensible to speak to a few different practitioners and, irrespective of their specialism, think about whether this is someone you or your child would be able to get along with and work with.

 

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