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Differences Between Counseling and Psychotherapy


Counseling v. psychotherapy is there a difference between
the two? This paper will attempt to prove that there are
several differences between counseling and psychotherapy.
While counseling and psychotherapy have several different
elements in each, the following information will also
attempt to show the reader that there are some areas where
the two overlap. At times this was a confusing topic to
research. A fine line distinguishes the two topics and one
must look hard to see this line. Definition of Counseling
One survey taken by Gustad suggests a definition of
counseling where he included three key elements. 
Counseling is a learning-oriented process, carried on in a 
 simple, one to one social environment, in which a
counselor, professionally competent in relevant
psychological skills and knowledge, seeks to assist the
client by methods appropriate to the latter's needs and
within the context of the total personnel program, to
learn more about himself, to learn how to put such
understanding into effect in relation to more clearly
perceived, realistically defined goals to the ` end that
the client may become a happier and more productive
member of his society (1957, p. 36). In lay terms
counseling can be described as a face to face relationship,
having goals to help a client to learn or acquire new
skills which will enable them to cope and adjust to life
situations. The focus is to help a person reach maximum
fulfillment or potential, and to become fully functioning
as a person. Definition of Psychotherapy Psychotherapy is
the process inwhich a therapists assists the client in
re-organizing his or her personality. The therapist also
helps the client integrate insights into everyday behavior.
Psychotherapy can be defined as "more inclusive
re-education of the individual" (Brammer& Shostrom,1977).
Objectives of counseling The objectives of counseling
according to the Committee on Definition, Division of
Counseling Psychology, American Psychological Association
are to "help individuals toward overcoming obstacles to
their personal growth, wherever these may be encountered,
and toward achieving optimum development of their personal
resources" (Arbuckle, 1967). In a paper written by Dr. T.
Millard, it is stated that "Counseling provides clarity and
a positive and constructive venue for the individual to
sensibly examine the instinctive-emotional and rational (or
irrational) motives which determine the drive, content, and
even the form of human conduct." This shows the part which
counseling plays in a clients treatment. Objectives of
psychotherapy According to Everett Shostrom (1967) , the
goal of psychotherapy is " to become an actualizer, a
person who appreciates himself and others as persons rather
than things and who has turned his self defeating
manipulations into self fulfilling potentials (p. 9).
Shostrom also feels that awareness is the goal of
psychotherapy, "The reason is that change occurs with
awareness!" (1967 p. 103). Shostrom feels that awareness is
a form of non-striving achieved by being what you are at
the moment,l even if what you are means the phony
manipulative role that we all play sometimes for external
support (1967 p. 103). Professional opinions Not all
therapists feel that there is a distinction between
counseling and psychotherapy. C.H. Patterson feels that it
is impossible to make a distinction, He feels that the
definition of counseling equally applies as well to
psychotherapy and vice a versa. Donald Arbuckle (1967)
argues that counseling and psychotherapy are identical in
all essential aspects. Others believe that there is a
distinction. Psychotherapy is concerned with some type of
personality change where counseling is concerned with
helping individuals utilize full coping potential. IN
Donald Arbuckle's work he included Leona Tyler's thoughts
on the differences between counseling and psychotherapy.
Leona Tyler attempts to differ between counseling and
psychotherapy by stating, "to remove physical and mental
handicaps or to rid of limitations is not the job of the
counselor, this is the job of the therapist which is aimed
essentially at change rather than fulfillment (Arbuckle
1967). Differences between counseling and psychotherapy One
of the major distinctions between counseling and
psychotherapy is the focus. In counseling, the counselor
will focus on the "here and now", reality situations.
During psychotherapy, the therapist is looking into the
unconscious or past. A psychotherapist is looking for a
connection of past to undealt with problems which are now
present in the real world. Donald Arbuckle states, "There
is a further distinction to be made. This involves the
nature or content of the problem which the client brings to
the counselor. A distinction is attempted between
reality-oriented problems and those problems which inhere
in the personality of the individual" (1967, p.145).
Counseling and psychotherapy also differentiate when it
comes to the level of adjustment or maladjustment of the
client. Counseling holds an emphasis on "normals". One
could classify "normals" as those without neurotic problems
but those who have become victims of pressures from outside
environment. The emphasis in psychotherapy however is on
"neurotics" or other severe emotional problems. Counseling
can also be described as problem solving where in
psychotherapy it is more analytical. In counseling a client
may have a situation where they do not have any idea how to
handle it. There are two types of problems, solvable and
unsolvable. If the problem is a solvable one, a therapist
may help that client by looking at the problem with them
and helping the client draw out solutions. When thinking of
solutions one must also think of the consequences. While
counseling deals with problem solving, psychotherapy on the
other hand deals with the analytical view. Here the
therapist would determine the cause of ones behavior from
the results of that behavior. An example could be if a
spouse was abusing the other spouse it could stem from the
abusive spouse's past. The abusive spouse may have been a
victim of abuse as a child, abused in a relationship
themselves or even have been a witness to abuse. The
counselor would analyze each act and try to link it to
something in the unconscious past. Length of treatment also
differs between counseling and psychotherapy. Counseling is
shorter in duration than psychotherapy. The time spent in
counseling is determined by goals set by the client and the
counselor. Once these goals are met the client should then
be able to go back on their own. Psychotherapy tends to
last a while longer. Sessions range from two to five years.
Psychotherapy is more of a comprehensive re-education of
the client. The intensity and length of therapy depends on
how well the client can deal with all of the new found
information. It could take quite sometime for the client to
be able to live with these feelings which originated in
past experiences which are usually hurtful ones. A
-psychotherapists also needs time to modify all existing
defenses. The setting of treatment also differs between
counseling and psychotherapy. A counseling session usually
takes place in a non medical setting such as an office.
Psychotherapy is the term used more in a medical setting
such as a clinic or hospital. Another difference between
counseling and psychotherapy has to do with transference.
Brammer and Shostrom (1977) state, "The counselor develops
a close personal relationship with the client, but he does
not encourage or allow strong transference feelings as does
the psychotherapist (p.223). The counselor tends to find
this transference as interfering with his or her counseling
effectiveness. A psychotherapist might feel that this
transference is helpful and the client may be able to see
what he is trying to do with the therapist relationship. A
counselor may look at transference as "manifestations in an
incomplete growing up process"(Brammer & Shostrom 1977),
where the psychotherapist interprets these transference
feelings as an unconscious nature of feelings. Resistance
is another area of counseling and psychotherapy that tends
to differ. Counselors see resistance as something that
opposes or goes against problem solving. A counselor tries
to reduce this as much ass possible. A psychotherapist on
the other hand finds resistance to be very important. If
the therapist can understand the clients resistance, he can
then understand how to help the client change his or her
personality. Similarities in counseling and psychotherapy
While there are clearly many differences between the
counseling approach and psychotherapy, there are some
similarities between the two. First, each of these are
similar in the sense that each client brings with them the
assets, skills, strengths and possibilities needed with
them to therapy. Secondly, counseling and psychotherapy are
similar in the way that they both use an eclectic approach.
The counselors and therapists do not have only one
technique, they borrow from all different techniques.
Arbuckle argues that" counseling and psychotherapy are in
all essential respects identical" (1967, p.144) He states
that the nature of the relationship which is considered
basic in counseling and psychotherapy are identical.
Secondly, Arbuckle says that the process of counseling
cannot be distinguished from the process of psychotherapy.
Third of all he feels that the methods or techniques are
identical. Arbuckle lastly states in the matter of goals
and or outcomes there may appear to be differences but no
distinction is possible. One major similarity between
counseling and psychotherapy are the elements which build a
person's personality. Each of these processes deal with
attitudes, feelings, interests, goals, self esteem and
related behaviors are all which are affected through
counseling and psychotherapy. Summary and Conclusion One
can see from the material provided that there are several
differences between counseling and psychotherapy. The
biggest difference in my opinion is the time factor/ focus
faced in each of these approaches. Counseling primarily
deals with reality situations versus the unconscious past
focus of psychotherapy. Secondly counseling has been
described as helping one to develop competencies in coping
with life situations where as psychotherapy is a re
organization of one's whole personality. Finally a last
distinction is that the counselor deals with life
adjustment problems while the psychotherapist deals with
past unresolved issues from the family of origin. While
there are many distinguishing differences between
counseling and psychotherapy, there are some aspects that
do spill over into each other. As one can see by the graph
provided (see figure. 1.1) there is a section where the two
approaches cross paths. One must definitely take a close
look at counseling and psychotherapy to distinguish whether
or not there is a difference between the two approaches. I
found this to be a very confusing topic at times. Just when
I thought I had completely grasped a concept I would run
across authors such as Arbuckle who speaks of the fact that
one can not distinguish counseling from psychotherapy.
Luckily, I researched part of this topic using my class
notes, to my advantage the lecture on June 15, 1995
discussed the differences between counseling and
psychotherapy. After reading these notes I realized that I
was right on track and there is a difference between
counseling and psychotherapy 
Arbuckle, D. S. (1967). Counseling and Psychotherapy: An
New York: McGraw Hill.
Bettelheim, B. & Rosenfeld, A. (1993). The Art of the
Insight For Psychotherapy and Everyday Life.
New York: Knopf.
Brammer, L . & Shostrom, E. (1977). Theraputic Psychology:
of Counseling and Psychotherapy Third Edition. Englewood
Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice Hall.
Rogers, C. (1951). Client Centered Therapy. New York:
Houghton Mifflin.
Shostrom, E. (1967). Man the Manipulator. Nashville,
Abingdon Press.


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