Counselling vs. Therapy: What's the difference?

It's a question that gets asked ALOT.


"Counselling" and "Therapy" are often terms that are used interchangeably.


It doesn't help that there are so many different occupations in the mental health industry - from Psychiatrists, to Psychologists - and within that, there are differences between so-called Counselling Psychologists versus Clinical Psychologists too.


Then we have our Counsellors and Psychotherapists to add into the mix as well.


We'll clarify on the above different occupations in another article - but today we will focus on the type of mental support you'll be getting.


Mainly, are you after "Counselling" or "Therapy"?



Let's talk about the similarities first.



1) Both involve talking to a trained mental health professional.



This mental health professional might be from any one of the listed occupations above.


Whatever it is, you should feel like you're in a safe and non-judgmental environment, that you are being well listened to and care for.


A key foundation of all Counsellors and Therapists is to be empathetic about what's happening to you and in terms of the problems you are dealing with too.


And if ever you feel that the trained professional might be judging you - then they are not doing a very good job. Get out of there!



2) Both counselling and therapy deal with understanding your struggles through the lens of your thoughts, emotions and behaviours.



The goal is to help you understand them better too, so you can make improvements to your life.


When we face a difficult challenge in our lives, and especially one that we've been struggling with for a while, our mind can really feel like a messy place to be in.


The Counsellor or Therapist is there to help you organise what's happening in your inner world - helping you reflect on your thoughts and beliefs, clarifying on your emotions, as well as understand how certain behaviours might perpetuate your problems.


When we become more aware of what's happening in our minds, we become empowered to make a change.


And get better you will too.



Now, the differences.



1) Counselling is usually shorter-term compared to Psychotherapy and focuses on present day issues.



Counselling typically focuses on present issues. In other words, counselling is usually more concerned about what's happening in your life right now.


Whether it is you're dealing with grief, a relationship issue, an addiction problem, or stress and anxiety, counselling focuses on processing the current events that are ongoing for you and to find a way to move forward too.


Given this, counselling tends to involve fewer number of sessions - anything from a single session up to six months.


On the other hand, therapy deals not just what's happening to you right now, but also what happened to you in the past.


This involves examining the events that have occurred through your life, such as a childhood incident or trauma, your familial relationships growing up, and anything up to your schooling and developmental years.


In that way, Therapy tends to be more intensive - going deeper to uncover the root cause of your present day struggles, relationship and attachment issues, as well as behaviours too.



On the other hand, therapy deals not just what's happening to you right now, but also what happened to you in the past.


2) All Therapists can counsel, but not all Counsellors can provide therapy.



As you can imagine, therapy requires much more extensive training and knowledge in order to process difficult issues that have happened in your past.


Each Therapist has their unique framework or what is called "modality" that they use to process past pain and trauma - do feel free to ask them any questions you have about their practice too.


On the other hand, counselling is more of a basic skill set that should be a foundation for all mental health professions.



In fact, if you're interested, you can read up a bit on Person Centered Therapy, which is something all our Hear Buds are trained in.


Essentially, it involves three core components:


  1. Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR): seeing you as a person that is suffering because of a problem, never judging you and always regarding you as trying your absolute best.

  2. Empathy: putting themselves in your shoes so they can relate to what's happening to you.

  3. Congruence: to be real, genuine and open when interacting with you. That they are authentic as well as human with you.


So yeah, that's mostly it! Still not sure what's right for you, send us an email or WhatsApp us ok?



Speak to our friendly Hear Buds or apply to speak to one of our Intern Counsellors. What's happening to you is not your fault. So hey you, don't struggle alone.