What's the Difference Between a Counsellor and a Psychotherapist?

The role of psychotherapist and a counsellor overlap however counsellor’s are not required to have a degree or HND to enter into counselling as there are separate qualifications in counselling that are available at different levels of education.


A psychotherapist course requires a good honours degree in the relevant subjects and have previous experience working in a related area, such as social work, mental health professions, psychology or psychiatry.  


Psychotherapist courses are normally part-time taking four to six years to complete. They include theory, supervised clinical work and clinical seminars. Training in an established institution will almost always include undergoing personal therapy throughout the course of their training. Psychotherapy is commonly a second career with many people coming from clinical psychology, psychiatry, mental health or social work backgrounds.


A counsellor will support clients as they make their own choices, within the framework of an agreed therapeutic contract, which will regulate what will be covered in sessions.  For example helping with a phobia that is becoming more and more debilitating. There are many different areas counselling can help clients such as abuse, addiction, eating disorders etc.


A psychotherapist can help a client overcome a wide range of issues from emotional difficulties to psychiatric disorders and is usually conducted over a longer-term of treatment and a psychotherapist have the training to reflect this, to explore the root causes of problems and help them to understand how past experiences affect the present.


The term ‘Registered Psychotherapist’ is a protected and regulated title by the professional bodies to guarantee the highest standards of training with emphasis on safety of practice. The term ‘counsellor’ is not legally restricted in the UK and consequently you are advised to check counsellor’s credentials.