Should you study a Counselling or Psychotherapy Course? What’s the Difference? 

Deciding to become a therapist is not only a career choice but a commitment to supporting others through their personal challenges and mental health journeys. However, one of the first questions many prospective therapists face is whether to pursue a counselling course or a psychotherapy course. While the terms counselling and psychotherapy are often used interchangeably, they can be considered distinct in various ways, such as their approach and scope of practice.

Understanding these differences is crucial in making an informed decision that aligns with your career aspirations and the type of work you wish to undertake in the field of mental health once you qualify.

What are Counselling and Psychotherapy?

Counselling typically focuses on specific issues or periods in a person’s life. It is often considered a short-term process that provides immediate support and strategies to manage current situations or life changes. Counselling courses, therefore, prepare therapists to help clients navigate specific challenges and decisions, equipping them with the counselling skills to support, guide and provide immediate coping strategies. That being said, counsellors will sometimes work with clients for longer periods of time.

Psychotherapy, on the other hand, delves deeper into the thoughts and feelings that underpin an individual’s experiences and behaviours. It’s a longer-term process aimed at uncovering the root causes of emotional difficulties, which may stem from past experiences or deeply rooted psychological issues and unconscious drives. Psychotherapy courses train therapists to work with complex mental health conditions and will often involve a psychiatric placement and infant observation to help trainees gain a deeper understanding of these issues. Trainee psychotherapists are often required to have more personal therapy than counsellors for a longer period of time during training (sometimes seeing a therapist multiple times per week). This is to prepare psychotherapists to work at a greater depth and intensity with clients. The courses take a minimum of four years to complete in the UK.

All this being said, the distinctions are not always clear cut. Experienced counsellors will be able to work with clients who have more complex mental health issues, and psychotherapists may offer shorter-term, focused support to clients.

Key Differences Between Counselling and Psychotherapy Courses

Whenever you’re starting a career in therapeutic practice, finding the right training is key, as the type of course you undertake will impact the trajectory of your professional career. Each course offers a unique approach to mental health support, tailored to different client goals and needs. Understanding the key differences between counselling courses and psychotherapy courses can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your career aspirations.

Deciding Which to Study 

Choosing between a counselling course and a psychotherapy course depends on several factors, including your career goals, the amount of time you can invest in your education and training, and the type of therapeutic work you would like to undertake post-qualification. 

If you are drawn to working with individuals on deep-rooted psychological issues over a longer period, a psychotherapy course may be more suitable. On the other hand, if you are interested in providing immediate support and effective strategies for people navigating life’s challenges, a counselling course might be the right choice.

Regardless of your decision, both paths offer the opportunity to make a significant impact on the lives of those struggling with mental health issues. By providing a supportive and understanding environment, you can help clients find their way through some of their toughest times, fostering resilience, growth and healing.

Find a Psychotherapy or Counselling Course in London 

Ultimately the choice between studying a counselling course or a psychotherapy course is a deeply personal decision that requires careful consideration. Both fields play a crucial role in mental health care, and regardless of the path you choose, you will be helping others navigate their journey towards well-being.

If you are searching for psychotherapy or counselling courses in London, take a look the British Psychotherapy Foundation’s training programmes. We offer several different courses, including pre-qualification courses. Our foundation course in psychotherapy and counselling is a great place to start if you’re at the very beginning of your journey to become a qualified therapist. You can find out more about what each course entails on the specific pages on our website or register to watch our Open Day Presentations. There is contact information for each course on our website too, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any unanswered questions.