top of page

A Beginner’s Guide to Counselling and Psychotherapy

Updated: Nov 25, 2022

Table of Content:

Deciding to explore mental healthcare is hard enough, and the lack of information about counseling and therapy can make it even more overwhelming. We completely understand your struggle with choosing between a counselor and a therapist. This point of difference can get super frustrating and that is okay!

That being said, the boundaries between counseling and therapy can get pretty blurry at times. But you’ve come to the right place! So, let’s try and clear them out a bit, shall we?

What is counseling?

Counseling is a type of talk therapy that lets you openly discuss and share your problems with a trained expert. This trained expert or a counselor allows you to not only explore your thoughts but also express them openly, without judgment.

It is also important to know that counseling does not necessarily mean sitting on a couch for hours and talking about your childhood. Usually, your counselor would not relate your current problem to a childhood event.

In short, a counselor simply helps you deal with those overwhelming feelings that may feel too much to handle at the moment. These feelings could arise out of bullying, educational or peer pressure, relationship problems, body image issues, etc.

Having said that, it is imperative to know that counseling is a collaborative effort between your counselor and you to help you identify goals and potential solutions for day-to-day problems which, if not dealt with, may lead to major mental health issues.

What is interesting is that the job of the counselor is not limited to giving you suggestions or potential solutions to your current obstacles. They may also help you make a plan of action in order to make it more comprehensive and help you find healthy coping mechanisms for your issues. To help these out, there are various types of counseling that take place today.

Depending on the cause and nature of your problem, your counselor may choose a particular type that could help you out. So let's get to know more about these types.

Types of Counseling

Counseling is a vast area to explore with multiple types. These types carry equal importance and it is no good nor better. All are extremely helpful to different people and help them lead healthier lives.

Mental health counseling

If you are someone going through any sort of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or acute stress, then this is the type of counselor you should approach. A mental health counselor helps you to identify the cause of your issue and to find healthy ways to solve and cope with it.

You can get in touch with a mental health professional. Book your free consultation now!

Marriage/family counseling

A lot of people experience immense dissatisfaction and problems in their family life. This leads to stress and unhappiness along with the need to solve this problem.

Family counseling helps you deal with such family issues that obstruct individual growth.

Educational/career counseling

Choosing a field of work causes massive anxiety, especially among teenagers.

If you are someone who is confused about what you want to do in your future, educational counseling helps you figure out your interest. Not only this, a counselor in this field will help you pick out the best courses, apply to universities and assist in writing college applications.

Rehabilitation counseling

What rehabilitation counseling does is help physically and mentally disabled people to develop healthy coping mechanisms and live independent life.

They provide them with emotional support considering most persons with disabilities live solitary life. They guide and assist them throughout their lives.

Substance abuse counseling

This type of counseling will help you to break free from your unhealthy drug/alcohol consumption patterns. The counselor will help you find alternate, healthier coping mechanisms and help you find the root of your addiction.

By providing a purpose in life, the aim of this counseling is to provide skills to avoid relapses.

Medical/patient counseling

Medical counseling helps patients deal with their illnesses better. It is natural that patients suffering from chronic illnesses like cancer develop mental health conditions like depression, amnesia, etc.

To better cope with the thought of death, counselors help and support patients suffering from mental conditions.

Now that you’ve identified which type of counseling would work best for you, you might also want to know about what you’ll experience during the same. Let’s get an idea about that too, yeah?

Stages of the counseling process

The process of counseling requires patience on the part of both, the counselor and the client. It is a planned and structured procedure that might seem intensive to you but is easy to follow through and understand. Usually, the process of counseling goes like this

  • Build a therapeutic relationship with your counselor

Building a strong foundation with your counselor is extremely important. This is done in the first session as you actively explain your issues to your counselor and they in return actively listen, providing verbal and non-verbal cues that should make you feel heard and comforted. This connection is the foundation of your journey.

  • Explore your issues, together

After this stage, you and your counselor assess the causes of your problem. You discuss possible solutions and explanations. They also tell you about your stressors, triggers, and other extraneous factors. Know that you both work together, as a team with you being the coach, of course!

  • Analyze the approach

Depending on your issues and the approaches preferred by your counselor, you may work according to a particular therapeutic approach. It could be behavioral, person-centric, cognitive, etc. These are the various types of counseling and your counselor may focus on one.

  • Terminate your journey

You terminate your therapeutic journey when you start feeling better and acquire the feeling of competence where you can help yourself. Termination may also happen when you do not want to continue with the same therapist for any reason. This may not be a stage as such but how you terminate your therapeutic journey stands essential. To analyze the feelings you’re left with is an important part that shall make this journey complete for you.

Your counselor may also refer you to some other professional like a therapist if they feel that your unresolved issues stem from a deeper root. If your counselor feels like you’re not progressing with their help, they may suggest you another professional.

That being said, all these stages are uniformly important. The lack of any stage can lead to issues at any part of your journey. It may also lead to incomplete healing. So, it is essential that you absolutely do not rush the process for you.

Now, we are pretty sure you can’t wait to know more about therapy, right? Let’s get to it straight away.

What is Psychotherapy

Now that we are pretty much familiar with ‘counseling’. Let’s also become acquainted with the term ‘psychotherapy’, commonly known as ‘therapy’.

While the two terms are interchangeable, therapy is merely an abbreviation of psychotherapy. It is also a more generalized and preferred term since it’s a little less scary to process.

But what is it exactly?

Psychotherapy is a form of talk therapy that helps you to deal with emotional issues like the loss of a loved one, trauma, adjustment, and coping. It helps you cope with specific mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc.

It also teaches you to understand and manage your own self, your thoughts, your feelings, etc. that are troubling to you so that you are able to function better with increased emotional stability.

The rather personal and frequent psychotherapeutic interactions will help you assess your emotional states better to establish a healthy relationship with yourself and your environment.