The difference between cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and counselling…

Unfortunately you won’t find an accurate definition in the dictionary (or even the Bible) to find out what a counsellor is: – the Oxford English dictionary says that a counsellor is an advisor- this is wrong!  Sometimes counselling is used as an umbrella term for all talking therapies – but again this is a mistake – the umbrella term for talking therapies and also for other therapies like art/music/dance therapy is Psychotherapy. Obviously there are similarities between counselling and CBT therapy i.e. they both may work with similar clients and both will use empathy and unconditional regard with their clients as well as active listening techniques. I have been told that I am good at explaining complicated stuff and simplifying it, which is what I will do in this blog – but sometimes that may involve fudging it a little!

Anyway here are the differences:

  1. Counsellors  just listen – they do not advise, whereas a CBT therapist will use psycho-education and share the latest research with their clients. CBT is collaborative and a good CBT therapist will offer tools to try, whereas a counsellor won’t.
  2. Most CBT therapists are psychologists, wheres most counsellors are not (unless they are a counselling psychologist!) And it takes 7 years to train as a psychologist. Most psychologists have a doctorate.
  3. “Psychologist” is a protected title by the government agency HCPC, whereas “Counsellor” is not; therefore in theory someone with just 6 weeks training could call themselves a counsellor.
  4. Historically they have different origins; a counsellor comes from the Freudian/Germanic schools of thought, whereas psychology (as it is today) originated with behaviourists like Skinner in America.
  5. Psychologists are scientists, counsellors are not. Therefore a psychologist can carry out research, as well as working clinically.

Ultimately it may come down to how much you can afford to pay too! However whether you see a counsellor or a CBT therapist, they will take your concerns seriously and help you change or accept the difficult situation you find yourself in, in order to help you live with a positive attitude to your mental health.