Psychotherapy, Counselling or Talking Therapy? Part 2.

Psychotherapy, Counselling or Talking Therapy?

By Tiago Brandao

The diversification of talking therapy approaches has resulted in a number of different professionals being responsible for different aspects of mental health, which can be confusing.

To simplify:

Psychiatrists are always specialist trained doctors. In the UK (and usually around the world) they are the only professionals that are able to make a definitive diagnosis regarding their mental health (for example, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or personality disorder). Psychiatrists are the only professionals who can prescribe medication for these conditions. Usually their focus of treatment is the physiological aspect of the mental health problem, so medication will be prescribed to alter brain chemistry to help patients manage their symptoms.

Psychologists are trained professionals that study the way that people’s minds work, including their behaviour, thoughts and physiological aspects of the brain. They can specialise in a number of different areas including but not exclusive to clinical symptoms, educational achievement, forensic studies and sports psychology. Psychologists may also provide talking therapy and tend to focus on evidence-based interventions such as CBT.

Psychotherapists and counsellors have a number of similarities and the names for their therapies are often used interchangeably. Both are trained professionals that use talking therapy to support individuals with their mental health and emotional challenges. One difference, however, is that psychotherapists have a more in-depth and extensive training, which gives them the potential to manage clients with more serious or complex psychological needs.

As I mentioned in the previous post, although each of these professionals might use different resources and techniques to support their clients, the professional relationship has been proven to be one of the most important aspects influencing the efficacy of treatment/process. Therefore, when looking for a mental health professional, make sure that you find someone that you feel comfortable with and that you feel able to build a trusting relationship with. This will be the first step of a very rewarding process.

It might also help to ensure that they are registered with one of the UK professional bodies such as BACP, UKCP, BABCP or BPS. These organisations make recommendations about the standards of training and practice for all psychotherapists and counsellors.

I offer all new clients a free 30-minute initial session so that we can get to known each other and to check that we are the right “fit”. This session offers a non-judgmental meeting with no expectations committing to counselling following this session.


1. Butler AC, Chapman JE, Forman EM & Beck AT (2006). The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: a review of meta-analyses. Clin Psychol Rev. Jan 26(1):17-31. Epub 2005 Sep 30.
2. Lambert MJ & Barley DE. (2001) Research summary on the therapeutic relationship and psychotherapy outcome. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training Vol 38(4), 357-361.