What Is the Difference Between Therapy and Counselling?

Hi and welcome to my first blog post!  I am really looking forward to connecting and communicating with my current clients, former clients, potential clients and anyone else who is interested in reading about, and discussing, various topics in the often overlapping fields of psychology and spirituality.  I welcome any and all comments and suggestions and have no problem discussing controversial subject matter, sexual topics and issues or whatever far flung material we can come up with.  I would be unlikely to publish any disrespectful comments, opinions can always be stated with respect and all opinions are welcome.  So…

So, what is the difference between therapy and counselling?

There are many metaphors that could be used to describe the difference between the two, but the one I like best would describe therapy as the tearing down and rebuilding of the unstable foundations of a house while counselling might be seen as a repair and maintenance task, such as fixing a broken window, repairing a worn roof or applying a new coat of paint.

Therapy is a longer process than counselling and addresses deep rooted issues that usually stem from childhood or family history or trauma.  These types of issues usually affect one’s ability to sustain healthy and satisfying relationships with intimate partners, family members and friends and often manifest in symptoms of depression, anxiety, addiction or many other mental health difficulties.  These issues can affect and inhibit one’s ability to enjoy life and to experience personal growth and the reaching of one’s greatest potential.

Counselling is more likely to be a shorter, time limited process that is specifically focused on addressing and remedying one or two particular issues.  These issues may be life changes, such as loss or divorce, career changes, behaviour specific changes, such as overcoming fears and phobias, addressing addictive behaviours or managing relationships.

Therapy and counselling are likely to use different theoretical approaches and mechanisms to effect change.  Therapy, also known as psychotherapy, is much more likely to make use of depth psychology approaches such as psychodynamic therapy, Jungian psychology or attachment based theory, to name but a few.  Counselling is often associated with more thought and behaviourally focused methods such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or one or more of its many offshoots.  Each approach has pros and cons, of course, and most therapists likely draw on many facets and philosophies from different theoretical approaches.

The important point here is that each person and each situation is entirely unique while remaining under the umbrella of universality.  As the Thai people would say “Same, same only different”.  Therapist and client will decide and discover together what is the most appropriate and helpful course for the individual circumstances and the unique human beings involved.

Here in Canada, you should be aware that when you see the term ‘Counselling’, it could encompass either therapy or counselling, or both, and it is the most widely recognized term in the field.  In Scotland and Ireland, in contrast, the distinction is often made on the website or in information literature and clients can request either/or.  The reasons for these geographical differences are the subject of another blog!

If you’ve gotten this far in reading, please feel free to disagree, comment, ask questions or suggest any other topic you are interested in discussing.

Peace and warm wishes


7 thoughts on “What Is the Difference Between Therapy and Counselling?

  1. Donna Mondani

    This is a very very well presented blog, Thanks for the info! I will pass this on to all those in my life that need some help. THANK YOU!

  2. Kelly Post author

    Thanks Eileen! And thank you for creating such a beautiful space. Eileen is the Web and Blog Designer Extraordinaire who created this page and my coming website for me…

  3. Steve

    OMG, Kelly, you’ve done it! You’ve come so far to get here and now it’s real, great presentation, the butterfly is great, love it! So happy for you, and proud of you!! :D This is just the beginning…Like Cara Leah said, keep me posted…

  4. Rhonda

    I did not know the difference between counselling and therapy before although I was curious. I really liked your analogy of the house, that makes the difference perfectly clear. What about for children though – how can you tell if a child needs therapy or counselling? Great blog, I look forward to reading more.


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