Definition of Counselling, Psychotherapy and Talking Therapies
There have been mentions of counselling in literature as far back as the early 1300s, and thousands of years before that there were references to the healing power of words and talking in the works of ancient Greece.
Over the last century or two, the idea that a conversation between two people to talk through a problem has developed into a wide range of differing therapies, each suited for a particular condition or range of symptoms.
In this module, we are looking solely at counselling, which is sometimes called therapy, talking therapy or psychotherapy. All three terms are interchangeable and can be applied to the same thing of talking things through with a professional, but there can also be slight differences in how they are carried out.
At its most basic definition, counselling is a face-to-face meeting between two people – a client and a counsellor. The entry for counselling in the Cambridge Dictionary is:
“the job or process of listening to someone and giving that person advice about their problems:”
The NHS defines counselling as:
“Counselling is a talking therapy that involves a trained therapist listening to you and helping you find ways to deal with emotional issues. Sometimes the term “counselling” is used to refer to talking therapies in general, but counselling is also a type of therapy in its own right.”
The BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) definition of counselling/ psychotherapy states that
“Counselling and psychotherapy are umbrella terms that cover a range of talking therapies. They are delivered by trained practitioners who work with people over a short or long term to help them bring about effective change and/or enhance their wellbeing”.
Psychotherapy is defined as the treatment of mental health problems by the use of psychological methods, rathan than the use of medication.
At its core, psychotherapy involves talking through problems, as in counselling, but psychotherapy is also used as an umbrella term for talk therapies including CBT and DBT).
Psychotherapy can also incorporate other things into talking therapy sessions such as music, art, movement, dance or drama.
Talking therapies is a broad term, which incorporates counselling, psychotherapy, CBT, DBT, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), among others.
The NHS describes talking therapies as:
“Talking therapies are psychological treatments for mental and emotional problems like stress, anxiety and depression. There are lots of different types of talking therapy, but they all involve working with a trained therapist. This may be one-to-one, in a group, online, over the phone, with your family, or with your partner. The therapist helps you understand and cope with the problems you’re having.”