What’s the Difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy?

February 20, 2021

What’s the Difference between Counselling and Psychotherapy?

The terms “counselling” and “psychotherapy” are often used interchangeably and share many similarities, but there are some important differences as well.


Firstly, let’s talk about the similarities between Counselling and Psychotherapy. There are many similarities between counselling and psychotherapy, and even with the distinction, counselling often includes some psychotherapy and psychotherapy often includes some counselling. Similarities include:

  1. Do not need to have medical training.
  2. Development of a healing, safe, and therapeutic relationship between a therapist and an individual.
  3. Effectiveness for a wide range of people, both adults and children.
  4. Understanding a person’s feelings and behaviours, and addressing issues with the goal of improving a person’s life.


While mental health professionals with more advanced degrees (e.g., psychology PhD or PsyD) are more likely to provide psychotherapy, the same provider may do both types of therapy. However, there are some key differences between these providers.


A “counsellor” is also commonly known as an “advisor”. Counselling consultation is short-term (typically 1 day to less than 6 months) and deals with present issues that are easily resolved on the conscious level. In other words, counselling is more concerned with practical or immediate issues and outcomes. Counselling normally helps a client process powerful emotions such as grief or anger, deal with immediate causes of stress and anxiety, clarify values and identify options when making important personal or professional decisions, manage conflicts within relationships, develop better interpersonal and communication skills, or intentionally change unproductive thoughts and behaviours.


On the other hand, psychotherapy, typically deals with longer-term treatment (more than 3 months to even 10 years) that focuses more on gaining insight into chronic physical and emotional problems. Psychotherapy intensively and extensively examines a person’s psychological history and an evolutionary process that helps a person look at long-standing attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors that have resulted in the current quality of one’s life and relationships. It goes much deeper to uncover the root causes of problems, resulting in more dramatic changes in perspective regarding oneself, one’s life experience, and the world in general. Ultimately, psychotherapy aims to empower the individual by freeing him/her from the grip of unconscious triggers or impulses through increased self-awareness.

People with chronic or severe depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc., might benefit most from psychotherapy. While a psychotherapist is qualified to provide counseling, a counselor may or may not possess the necessary training and skills to provide psychotherapy.

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