The word counselling, in the generic sense of the term, has several meanings associated with it. 

For instance, we often find ourselves in the position where we are required to counsel a friend or a family member, listening to their talks patiently and giving them our own personal advice. There are also religious organizations and religious mentors who help people find peace and solace through another kind of counselling, in which they offer advice as well. 

These kinds of general counselling, one must realize, is much different than professional counselling. 

One major difference is that a professional counsellor is an extensively trained person who applies several different counselling techniques which are also well researched and empirically tested ways of helping people. Professional trained counsellors also have experience working with many narratives and that also differentiates them from a friend.

What is Counselling?

Counselling is a process that involves a therapeutic relationship between a trained individual willing to offer help and an individual willing to seek help in a confidential, safe and unconditionally accepting setting. It is a type of talking therapy in which a counsellor listens to your problems and helps you deal with your emotional problems, increase your self awareness, self-esteem and gain confidence in your abilities as well as a sense of wellbeing. 

What To Expect In A Counselling Session

Irrespective of whether you are going to visit a counselor for the first time or not, and regardless of why you’re seeing one, knowing what to expect from these counselling sessions will help you be at ease during the session itself.

Counselling is a voluntary relationship, and a client cannot be forced to seek counselling. The first session involves the client talking about their general dissatisfaction from life and what brought them to the counsellor in the first place. Usually the first set of questions that a counsellor may ask you about during the first session revolve around you and your life which allows your counsellor to make a preliminary assessment of your situation. Once the client feels comfortable, a few more questions that they can expect may be about why they chose to seek help; personal history including family dynamics, and then about physical manifestations of your issues and other symptoms. All this information, or anything that you share in counselling will always remain confidential. 

Counselling sessions are always a team effort, and to make progress the clients need to be open about their feelings and actively participate for their own benefit.

Follow-up sessions are also held, generally on a weekly basis and along with those, review assessments are also taken to take note of your progress and proceed accordingly. 

Difference Between Counselling and Psychotherapy

Counselling and psychotherapy may seem similar, and most definitely are in some dimensions, but it is important to understand the difference between the two. Both a counsellor and a psychotherapist may help a client confront their problems, find acceptance in themselves and deal with their issues and develop solutions. At the same time, counselling and psychotherapy are different in terms of the approaches, models, time invested, etc. 

Counselling is a much briefer and treatment that focuses primarily on the behavioural aspect of the process. A particular symptom or solution is targeted and suggestions are offered to deal with the same. Counsellors offer guidance and support for the individual to navigate through their life challenges. 

Psychotherapy is a long term treatment that involves gaining important insights into much more chronic physical and mental health conditions. Several approaches may be used and they affect the whole procedure and how it is carried out. However the treatment usually focuses on the thought processes of the client, and forming connections between this and the past experiences of the client so as to form solutions and action plans. It addresses the source of the problem and where it stems from so that a long lasting solution and personal growth can be achieved. Psychotherapy may also involve testing procedures to analyze the personality, intelligence, etc. of the client. It is big picture oriented and focuses on a holistic approach instead of zoning in on specific behaviours. 

Difference between Psychiatric Help and Counselling

Psychiatric help is also quite different from counselling, definitely even more so than therapy. While both a psychiatrist and a counsellor’s goal would be to treat their client or their patient (in case of the psychiatrist), both these fields are very set apart and distinguishably separate. 

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in preventing, diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. They are trained in differentiating mental health conditions from underlying medical conditions that could be the reason for psychiatric problems. They track the effects of mental disorders on associated or preexisting physical conditions such as cardiac problems or high blood pressure. They also prescribe medicines and monitor their effects on the body. 

Whereas, a counsellor focuses on providing talk therapy and psychological treatments and specialize in treating mental illnesses. They help the clients deal with their emotional, behavioural and cognitive problems and provide guidance and support. They do not hold a medical degree, however, they are extensively trained in applying various approaches for the purpose of reducing symptoms and help their clients go through with a solution-oriented action plan. The outcomes include increased ability to tackle major life problems and manage one’s mental health condition. 

Types of issues counselling can help you with:

  • Coping with stress, anxiety, and other emotional problems 
  • Coping with grief i.e the death of a loved one or break up from a long term relationship
  • Coping with work-related stress
  • Exploring issues related to sexual identity and preferences
  • Resolving issues related to self-esteem, denial, guilt and shame
  • Dealing with issues preventing you from actualizing and realizing your potential in career, health and relationships
  • Understanding yourself, your problems much more holistically and fully

Frequently Asked Questions about Counselling

Q. Who invented counselling or who coined the term “counselling” for the first time?

Carl Rogers coined the term “counselling” and is a very important contributor to the field of counselling and psychotherapy. He came up with the process of person centred therapy or client centred therapy. He didn’t have a medical qualification and thus was prevented from calling his work psychotherapy.

Q. What are the different types of counselling?

Following are some of the types of counselling: 

  • Integrative Therapy.
  • Humanistic Therapy.
  • Person-Centred Therapy.
  • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy/Counselling.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
  • Gestalt Therapy.
  • Cognitive Therapy.
  • Behavioural Therapy.
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