Heidi Leipnik MA, MBACP (Snr. Accred)

Counselling & Psychotherapy:
what is the difference?

These terms – ‘counselling’ and ‘psychotherapy’ can be used interchangeably to define a space that is created between a professional practitioner and a client which is therapeutic and brings about change and increased awareness.

The training and qualification is different for both. Counselling qualifications can be achieved in a shorter period of time than psychotherapy qualifications, sometimes in just two or three years, so the terms can define the length and depth of training. The duration of counselling for the client may be shorter than that of psychotherapy too, 'time limited counselling' can be just four to six sessions, psychotherapy is longer in duration, sometimes continuing over a number of years to allow for the deeper nature of the work. Psychotherapy specifically works with the unconscious, the aim of the work being to make the unconscious conscious, therefore freeing us up to be more as we choose to be.

For these reasons and because of the range of training and qualifications I have received, I use the term 'therapy' here to bridge the two and represent that I work with a combination of both.

My fundamental philosophy of therapy is that it provides a space for one to be heard; one has a need, and a right, to be seen and heard, and in being seen and heard we have the opportunity to be more fully our true selves. This is a simplistic view of what therapy provides, but it underpins what I believe to be the essence of it. I see therapy as time to come into contact with yourself through the presence of another, the therapist, who is focussed on you and who has your best interests at heart. This creates a 'containing' space in which you can be allowed and helped to experience and understand yourself better and discover your own answers and conclusions about the struggles that bring you into therapy.

I believe one's sense of self has firm roots in early relationships and the attachments created in this fundamental time of development. Study of infant attachment shows the impact of the parent-child relationship on the infant; at some level, conscious or unconscious, these early experiences are remembered and one's role in relationships to primary caregivers can become a familiar one throughout life, even when we find it no longer serves or even seems to fit us, particularly when it seems to damage us, or others. Low self esteem, depression, difficulty with intimacy and other emotional experiences can be altered when sense can be made of why they are present. With heightened awareness one has a greater choice, and then change is possible and we can go forward with a better sense of ourselves and our ability to be in this world.

For couples, this emphasis on being heard is just as pivotal. Communication between a couple can be complicated, stuck, or largely absent. I work with the dynamic of the couple as well as considering each individual's family history to help understand what roles are being recreated helpfully or unhelpfully. Couples find the presence of a therapist can assist them in speaking what feels risky or difficult. It can provide a means of learning how to communicate better and help the couple rediscover one another. It can be a time to reflect on the shared journey and reassess what needs to happen in order for the couple to move forward, either together or separately.

Therapy is a confidential and professional relationship. Its focus is on you and your experience in the world, and the therapist accompanies and journeys alongside.



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