..The Intuitive Times
Healing the Heart


What Kind of Counselling For Me?

by Bill Campbell,B.A.,B.Ed,M.EdmCRT, CGC, CCC

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Many people have difficulty distinguishing amongst a variety of terms used in the helping professions. The professionals themselves have not helped in this confusion because we frequently use the same terms interchangeably without any clear identifiable differences. Some of these terms include: counselling, therapy, social work, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and psychiatry.

How can lay people understand this terminology in terms of what they may choose as a preferred format for assistance with their issues?

A. To simplify this process, let us group counselling, therapy, and psychotherapy together. There are nuances of differences in these terms but generally they refer to professionals helping individuals cope with life events which have produced emotional and mental distress (physiological consequences are also commonly linked to emotional and mental problems).

Although all three terms can frequently be used interchangeably, psychotherapy often refers to more serious inner emotional problems that may require a significant period of time to help clients basically restructure their personality.

B. Psychology is the study of human behaviour. Psychologists have moved primarily from the "Arts" discipline to the "Science" discipline probably because a great deal of human behaviour can be objectively classified versus subjectively analyzed. As such, psychologists specialize in explained behaviour for their clients. Counselling Psychologists as well as counsellors, tend to emphasize a client's strengths and potential to change rather than using a diagnostic, pathological model more appropriate to social work, pure psychology and psychiatry.

C. Social workers are individuals trained in the field of societal and environmental influences on behaviour. They study, research and analyze social influences on behaviour. Their counselling is often family oriented since the family is the primary building block of society.

D. Psychoanalysis is the term which originally came into being from Sigmund Freud who explained human behaviour from the primary aspect of the unconscious. Although psychoanalysis has gone beyond the boundaries of Freud, it is still used to signify the exploration of the unconscious, including dreams in order to offer clients a conscious explanation and understanding for their behavior.

E. Psychiatry includes the areas of psychoanalysis. However, psychiatrists are also Medical Doctors before specializing in the field of psychiatry. As such, psychiatrists can prescribe medications to help clients deal with what are usually more severe mental and emotional issues such as neuroses and psychoses. Psychoses refers to major mental disorders where the personality is severely affected. Those disorders can be organic (ie.,genetic, disease, injury) or functional (e.g. schizophrenia or manic depression.) Neuroses refers to mental disorders characterized by anxiety, compulsion, phobias and depression.

In all the fields the word "Clinical" is frequently used as an adjunct to seemingly add a more professional overtone to the original term. The word "Clinical" has come to signify a more scientific approach given to direct experiment, observation and testing in some controlled fashion. This approach is commonly used to more scientifically analyze a problem and prescribe or help clients create new methods to achieve their therapeutic goals.

Although these classifications may seem to distinguish many of these dichotomous terms, the reality of the helping field, especially in more limited areas such as P.E.I., is that, except for psychiatrists who can prescribe medications, many of the same duties are being preformed by the majority of the professionals in the helping field. Due to limited access to the more specifically trained professionals, many of us have by necessity had to learn to deal with more serious issues than we had originally been trained for or expected to perform. This fact requires that professionals ethically need to disclose to their clients the limitations of their training and experience so that the clients themselves can make informed decisions regarding professional assistance.

Disclaimer: The thoughts expressed here are the opinion of the author and not necessarily those of the professions mentioned.

Bill Campbell, B.A., B.Ed, M.Ed, CRT, CGC, CCC., is a professional counsellor and counsellor-trainer in Summerside and Charlottetown . He can be reached at 902-436-3545.


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