What is the difference between Psycotherapy and Counselling?

This is something I get asked a lot, and it is a very good question and one where there is unfortunately no simple answer! However, it seems important to try to answer in a market where technically at present, anybody can refer to themselves as a ‘Psychotherapist’ or ‘Counsellor’.


Though both are talking therapies, and in practice Counselling and Psychotherapy can look similar, there are key differences in the thinking and process, as well as the level of training required.


The training to become a UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) registered psychotherapist is at postgraduate level and covers a four to five-year period. A significant number of personal therapy hours, supervision hours, client hours, CPD hours, and academic hours and assignments, are required to qualify. Counselling on the other hand, often spans two years at the further education level. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) is the main register for counsellors.


Counsellors generally work at a more immediate level, focusing on a current issue that is affecting the client. Psychotherapists on the other hand think and work at a deeper level, considering how the structure of the client’s process and personality might be affecting their experience of relationships and being in the world. Psychotherapists are trained to formulate – to diagnose according to their approach to therapy.


In short, you may meet many counsellors who call themselves psychotherapists, but no psychotherapists who call themselves counsellors. If a clinician is a BACP member and not a UKCP member, then it is a fair assumption that they are a counsellor.