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The differences and similarities between counselling, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis
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British Psychoanalytic Council

The differences and similarities between counselling, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis


I began as a ounsellor but now practise as a psychotherapist/Jungian psychoanalyst, usually working longer term and in depth. The Jungian approach recognises the deep creative power of the psyche to evolve and heal itself, in an atmosphere of support  .              

It is widely accepted that counselling is usually focussed on a specific problem occurring in the present or recent past, whereas psychotherapy and psychoanalysis tend to deal with the problems that a person has encountered in the course of their life. Often the source of these issues can be traced back to early life experiences, in childhood or even babyhood.

In practice, many people who start in therapy with current issues do explore how previous experiences are affecting them in the present. Often people start to see current issues as part of a ‘pattern’ of feelings and behaviours, and then start making connections with when the pattern started, and why.

One difference between these kinds of therapy is duration. Counselling or 'brief psychotherapy' can be short-term, a few weeks or a few months of (usually) once-weekly sessions. Psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are not usually less than a year or two, and can go on for much longer.  Psychotherapists usually work once weekly, whereas psychoanalysts work both weekly and at higher frequency. Some people I work with find that a period of two or three times weekly can be helpful when exploring things in depth. Others find that weekly sessions suit them best.   

 Anyone who like me is a member of the British Psychoanalytic Council (The BPC) will have had a significant amount of personal therapy themselves. Personal therapy is important for all practitioners, so that there is less chance of our own issues getting muddled up in an unhelpful way with those of the people we are working with, without us realising. Also, making the journey into therapy can be difficult, and itís important for us to know what that is like.