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8 months ago · · Comments Off on Choosing a Psychotherapist

Choosing a Psychotherapist

What is the difference between counselling, psychotherapy and analysis?


There are three main sorts of talking therapist: counsellors, psychotherapists and analysts. I am a psychotherapist, which means I am qualified to conduct counselling as well as psychotherapy, but not analysis.


There are two quantifiable factors that distinguish counsellors, psychotherapists and analysts: the therapist’s level of training, including the amount of experience they are likely to have had themselves as a patient in a training analysis, and normally the frequency and duration of treatment.


– Counselling is therapy one or fewer sessions per week for a limited period generally working on a particular symptom or life situation. Counsellors tend to have a shorter and less intensive training and, recently, some of the regulators removed the requirement for counselling trainees to have any therapy themselves which will make the distinction with psychotherapists greater over time.

– Psychotherapists are trained to graduate level and beyond. Like a counsellor, a good psychotherapist will work with you on what is happening in your life at the moment, but they will also be able to help you find connections between whatever is going on now and the underlying patterns, beliefs and expectations in your life which can then, over time, be better understood and resolved. They may notice the significance of something you had never really thought about before, and may be able to help you recognise and process any unspoken distress that is stored inside you. They do this partly because all good trainings require therapists to have had at least as much therapy as the patients they are qualified to see. Psychotherapy is one, or two sessions a week and ends when the client feels enough work has been done.

– Psychoanalysts and Jungian Analysts are therapists who have had their own analysis for at least four years alongside a more extensive clinical and theoretical training than psychotherapists. Treatment involves sessions three, four or five times a week and are used by those requiring an especially high level of attention. Although this very intensive mode of treatment has developed enormously in both theory and practice, in intensity it is the same as that invented by Freud 120 years ago, and he invented it for people with more resources and time than are usual today. It is a huge commitment, but life-changing work can be done, usually strongly focussed these days on the relationship between the patient and the analyst.

There are a lot of counsellors, fewer psychotherapists, and very few analysts.

What should you look for and expect in a psychotherapist?

Psychotherapists hold a position of great responsibility towards their patients, and should be registered with one of the reputable national bodies such as the British Psychoanalytic Council. This ensures that your psychotherapist has undergone and satisfactorily completed a lengthy clinical training and that they are appropriately monitored, insured and supervised. It also means that they subscribe to a recognised Code of Ethics, ensuring that, if you should at any time have a problem with your therapist, there is a body to whom you can appeal who will take your problem seriously and offer you a way forward.


There are some things you should always expect:

– your therapist to offer regular sessions in a room that is private, comfortable and reliable.

– they must ensure confidentiality is maintained to the highest of standards.

– they must treat you with care and respect, listening carefully and interpreting what you say constructively.

– and, they must keep good boundaries, especially personal boundaries, so the work can continue safely at the depth and intensity that the client requires.

Finally, when you are thinking of starting therapy, I recommend you hold initial consultations with a couple of psychotherapists. Reputable therapists will generally offer initial consultations as an opportunity for both of you to ask any relevant questions, decide if working together is likely to be fruitful and feels right.

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