Figuring out all the different names for services that are quite similar can be a confusing mess. Here, I've tried to explain, as simply as possible, the varoius different terms and approaches for common mental health support practitioners.
"Counselling falls under the umbrella term ‘talking therapies’ and allows people to discuss their problems and any difficult feelings they encounter in a safe, confidential environment. The term can mean different things to different people, but in general it is a process people seek when they want to change something in their lives or simply explore their thoughts and feelings in more depth.
A counsellor is not there to sit you down and tell you what to do - instead they will encourage you to talk about what's bothering you in order to uncover any root causes and identify your specific ways of thinking. The counsellor may then look to create a plan of action to either help you reconcile your issues or help you to find ways of coping.
Counselling does not come in a cookie-cutter format and each session is generally tailored to the individual. There is flexibility within this type of therapy that allows for a variety of counselling methods."
(Source: Counselling Directory)
There are over 450 recognised counselling methods in the world which can, quite frankly, make the process of finding a therapist a bit daunting and confusing.
One of the more common methods are called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) which is a wonderful framework but it tends to ignore issues from the past as well as bigger problems in society that might impact a person's mental health, such as racism or sexism, as CBT's focus is on creating better thoughts for yourself to promote more helpful feelings and actions.
I've trained in a number of methods such as CBT, narrative therapy (and coaching), transactional analysis (TA), existentialism, positive psychology, solutions-focused therapy as well as using psychology in my session, such as offering insights into the science of our brains and the impact of evolutionary psychology.
Psychotherapy in the UK is the same as counselling, at this moment in time, and neither are protected titles. This is different in different countries. In The United States there are very strict definitions and requirements to be able to use these titles. In Denmark, the word 'counsellor' doesn't exist and the title 'psyhotherapist' is unprotected, so you don't have to have any training to set up a private practice as a psychotherapist. In Denmark, psychotherapists are also trained at private organisations that have no links to the Danish educational system, whereas my counselling and psychotherapy training happened at a recognised Scottish university and earned me a degree qualification.
Some people prefer to call themselves 'psychotherapists' to illustrate that they have a very lengthy degree in a very specific area, often within 'psycho-analysis' or 'psycho-dynamic analysis' or 'transactional analysis'.
A criticism of counselling and psychotherapy can be that it's a whole lot of navel gazing and going round and round in your emotions and focussing on the past and it can leave you feeling exhausted, helpless and wonder 'but how do I move forward'? or 'I've gained all this personal insight but what do I do with it now'? This is where coaching can be really helpful or if you find yourself a counsellor or psychotherapist with a more proactive and solution focussed approach.
Above information is correct to my knowledge as of 2022.
No training is needed to call yourself a 'life coach' and those who have done training or gained a diploma or certificate can do so from so many different places and sources, it's hard to say if their qualifications are particularly good or not.
Coaching still offer you a private and (ideally) confidential space to talk about your problems and obstacles in life. However, generally speaking, coaches are more focussed on 'goals' and 'outcomes' and you're looking ahead, planning, creating new habits or breaking old ones and focussing on the future, whereas counselling, traditionally, focus more on the past and on feelings above actions.
Coaching is therefore considered more action-based and dynamic than counselling and can have a more proactive approach to it. Life coaches are not suppose to offer advice, but some might still. You might think that sounds really appealing but there are many dangers in giving advice, something I'll write about soon (so keep an eye out). Or, you can read my free e-book about the problem of being a 'rescuer' here.
In Denmark 'psychologist' is a protected title (unlike in the UK, where only specific areas of psychology are protected, like 'clinical psychologist' and 'educational psychologist').
In Denmark a BSc (bachelors) and a MSc (Masters/kandidat) in psychology, automatically, earns you the title 'psychologist' if you've taken your degree at a Danish university. You can then go on to prove your experience and knowledge and become an 'accredited' or 'authorised' psychologist.
Not all psychologists will have extensive training in the art of 1 to 1 talk therapy but might still set up a private practice.
A psychologists degree will be far more extensive than a psychotherapists and in Denmark, psychologists are trained in offering diagnoses, such as Bipolar Disorder or ADHD.
A psychotherapist should never diagnose you, though they might talk about symptoms relating to a diagnosis (like depression or anxiety) and suggest further investigation through the proper channels.
A psychologist can, therefore, work in many areas, including HR.
A psychiatrist is a medically trained doctor who's done extra training within the field of mental health problems. They can also offer diagnoses as well as medicine.
They are often big believers in the biological/medical model of mental health problems which is a hotly debated topic across the world. I'm currently working on a piece about that which will be published soon.
My All-Round Approach
At The Manual of You(TM) I offer an all-round approach (well, nearly).
I believe it's really important to understand our past and how it's shaped us to be able to truly break those patterns (that's the counselling/psychotherapy bit), but I've, likewise, seen the damage of people who've attended counselling for years and feel stuck and confused because they keep just muddling around in their unhelpful feelings and though they've gained lots of insights into their feelings, they don't know how to move forward or create a better life for themselves, and that's where coaching comes in. I believe it's very important to have an eye on the goal you want to achieve and actively work towards a better future.
However, we can get ourselves stuck by not understanding basic, underlying principles like how our brains work or how they were designed, so I infuse all my sessions with psychology and psycho-educational means (a fancy word for 'information').
I do not, however, offer diagnoses. Nor am I part of the Danish health system, and as mentioned on other places on this website, I am not allowed to use the title 'psychologist' in Denmark, as my degrees are from Scotland, despite having a BSc and MSc in Psychology (even paid for by the Danish state), so I offer therapeutic psychology coaching and call myself a psychotherapist and psychology coach.
If you'd like to know more about me, you can read the About Me section.
If you have more questions about what I offer or about the world of therapy, you might find your answers under Articles or my Frequently Asked Questions section.
If you'd like to see what else I have on offer, check out the Offers section.
And if you'd like to get in touch to set up a cheap taster session, please get in touch via the form here.
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, or didn't, or want to add something or have a question, feel free to comment below (but try and be kind about it - I'm a terribly sensitive soul).
Don't forget that this is just my opinion. You don't have to agree. These pieces of writing are just here to make you think and take from it what you like and find helpful and ignore the rest. At the end of the day, it's your life and, therefore, what you consume, what you believe, and what you think and feel is your choice.
Also, this article has been brought to you by a perfectly imperfect, flawsome dyslexic. I hope any potential spelling or grammar mistakes didn't take away from your enjoyment.
Meandering thoughts about life and the meaning of everything, from a know-it-not-all!