Should I look for a counsellor or a psychotherapist?
What's the difference?
It's true that in a lot of ways counselling and psychotherapy are very similar.
Counselling (just to say right from the start) is NOT advice-giving. A good counsellor works to help you to find your own ways forward with the issues you're facing. They will support you in this process; and they will challenge you, to encourage you to look at your issues with more clarity. Sometimes they will just listen - there is evidence that simply talking and being listened-to helps us all to respond more positively to the challenges facing us, even when they are difficult and we feel stuck with them.
Psychotherapy tends, however, to go deeper into the roots of why we feel the way we do, in the hope of changing the patterns in our lives that make us unhappy and unfulfilled.
Psychotherapy looks at how we make sense of life; the things we do to cope when something bad happens, the way we react when something good happens. It helps us understand how we show our feelings (or don’t); how we deal with our moods (and the moods of others); how we think of ourselves. Sometimes the process of hearing ourselves say things about what's going on can help us make sense of them.
Generally psychotherapists are trained at a higher level - initial trainings in psychotherapy begin at postgraduate level, whereas counselling trainings begin at a basic certificate level. But it's important to stress that many counsellors are very experienced, and - in the end - experience is more important than qualifications.
If you're trying to decide who to work with, try to find someone you feel you could get on with and trust, and make sure they are properly qualified (either BACP or UKCP registered). Trust your instincts when you meet them: do you feel comfortable, and would you talk to them truthfully about what is bothering you?
I am both a BACP Senior Registered Counsellor and a UKCP Registered Psychotherapist.