Frequently Asked Questions
What is counselling and psychotherapy?
Counselling and psychotherapy are professional activities that utilise an interpersonal relationship to enable people to develop understanding about themselves and make changes in their lives. Professional counsellors and psychotherapists work within a clearly contracted, principles relationship that enables individuals to obtain assistance in exploring and resolving issues they wish to manage.
Professional counselling and psychotherapy:
- Draws upon psychotherapeutic and psychological theories, along with a set of advanced interpersonal skills which emphasise processes of facilitation. Such processes are based on an ethos of respect for clients, their values, their beliefs, their uniqueness and the right to self-determination.
- Requires an in-depth training process to develop understanding, knowledge about human behaviour, therapeutic capacities, and ethical and professional boundaries. Due to the explicit contract and in-depth training required to use a range of therapeutic interventions, professional counselling should be differentiated from the use of counselling skills by other professionals.
- Takes account of the cultural and socio-political context in which the client lives, and how these factors affect the presenting issues. This includes awareness and assessment of cultural influences such as age, development, disability, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, indigenous identity, nationality, and gender. Professional counsellors and psychotherapists value such differences and avoid discrimination on the basis of such factors.
- May involve work with current issues, immediate crisis, or long term difficulties. Depending on the nature of the difficulties, the work may be short or long term and may involve working with an individual, a couple, a family, or a group. This may occur in a variety of organisational contexts in the public or private sectors.
- Regards the processes of self monitoring, self examination, self awareness, self development, professional development, and ongoing clinical supervision as central to effective practice. Such practices lead to capacity to utilise oneself in the therapeutic endeavour.
Although counselling and psychotherapy overlap considerably, there are also some differences.
- The work with clients may be of considerable depth in both modalities; however the focus of counselling is more likely to be on specific problems, changes or issues in life adjustment. Psychotherapy is more concerned with the restructuring of the personality or self.
- Although both counsellors and psychotherapists work with a variety of clients, psychotherapists are more likely to work very intensely with more deeply disturbed individuals who are seen more frequently over a long period of time.
- Counsellors are more likely to work in specialised areas where specialised knowledge and method are needed eg grief and bereavement counselling, school counselling, HIV counselling, addictions counselling, marital and family counselling.
- At advanced levels of training, counselling has greater overlap with psychotherapy than at the foundation levels.
Originally prepared by a working party chaired by Dr Jan Grant, Edith Cowan University, and adopted at the 1997 conference of the Standing Conference of Educators and Trainers in Counselling and Psychotherapy, later to become PACFA.
How do counsellors and psychotherapists obtain training?
There are a number of legitimate and well established paths for training in these areas.
They are offered through a variety of training providers. PACFA has set national standards for training in consultation with a wide number of providers. To view these in full please refer to www.pacfa.org.au and go to the training standards.
How do I choose a counsellor or psychotherapist?
Some hints on choosing a counsellor or psychotherapist include:
- Look on the CAPA website or other professional associations. A list of members is featured on this website under Find a Practitioner. This means the practitioner involved abides by the Code of Ethics and membership regulation of the association. The same applies to listings in the phone book under a professional association listing ie only members can be placed in that advertisement.
- Speak to people who may know of the practitioner eg doctors and other health practitioners. As they may refer to the practitioner, they may also have an idea of the caliber of the practitioner.
- Ring the practitioner and ask some questions so you understand the way they work and whether you feel comfortable with the way they deal with you. As the relationship between you and the practitioner is critical, you need to assess whether the person is right for you.
What should I ask the counsellor or psychotherapists when I ring them?
- Do you deal with the issue/s I am experiencing?
- What training and background do you have?
- How long have you been working as a counsellor or psychotherapist?
- Do you work long or short term?
- How much do the sessions cost?
- How long are the sessions?
- Where are you located?
- If you have special needs around access, for example, remember to ask about it in the initial phone call.
Counsellors and psychotherapists often receive referrals from other health practitioners eg doctors, specialists, psychiatrists, mental health practitioners. They can obtain information about CAPA members via the website and the Find a Practitioner page.
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