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Counselling and Psychotherapy - Definitions

There is a lot of debate in the counselling and psychotherapy professions about what the terms ‘counselling’ and ‘psychotherapy’ actually mean. In some cases they are used interchangeably. On the other hand counselling is often regarded as working with the present, whilst psychotherapy is understood to address, in more depth, the past causes of present difficulties and is usually over a longer period of time.

It seems important to both define them and make a distinction between the two whilst demonstrating how they relate to each other. What is offered at Woman to Woman is explained in light of these explanations.

In the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (OED) counsel is defined as 1. ‘advice’ (especially formally given) or 2. ‘consultation’. These are taken from the route word in Latin consilium. This is a common understanding of the word counsel in our society.

In the same dictionary the word counselling is defined as 1. ‘giving counsel’ or ‘the process of assisting and guiding clients (especially) by a trained person on a professional basis, to resolve (especially) personal, social and psychological difficulties’.

The 'advice’ given at Woman to Woman will be related to which interventions the client might use to address her specific problem(s). ‘Advice’ in the traditional sense, i.e. how someone should live her life, is not what is offered here. Assisting and guiding are closer to what is available, but facilitation would be a more accurate description. This is because the processes offered by Woman to Woman are those whereby the client is believed to hold the key and inner strength to resolve her own issues. What is most often needed is an empowering therapeutic relationship where the client is able to reach her own conclusions and access her own inner resources and healing, as described by Carl Rogers in his Person Centred Theory.

To define psychotherapy it is useful to break the word down into its constituent parts. Psycho is defined as ‘relating to the mind’ (Latin from the Greek psukhē) (OED).

Therapy is derived from the Greek therapeia meaning ‘healing’ (OED).

Putting both words together, therefore, psycho with therapy means ‘mind healing’.

Psychotherapy is the main aim of this service. Counselling, however, is present in offering the facilitating conditions of a therapeutic relationship and the possible suggestion of specific interventions drawn from a variety of therapeutic traditions and disciplines. The overall objective is for the client to find within herself the resolution of her issues and the healing of her mind, by engaging with the collaborative processes offered by the therapist.


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