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Counselling vs. Psychotherapy: How are They Different?

February 28th, 2014 · counselling vs. psychotherapy

Counselling vs. psychotherapy: people often wonder what the difference is between these two things, and what the respective merits and demerits are of each.

counselling vs. psychotherapy

These terms get used in somewhat different ways, but here is my interpretation, which I think would be generally accepted by a depth psychotherapist.

Counselling as Shorter Term

Most experts would think of counselling as being generally shorter term in duration than psychotherapy.  Counselling is generally quite focused, and is usually dealing with a specific life issue — perhaps a particular crisis like a job loss, an important decision, clarification of key values, the end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one.  Or, it may target a particular symptom, or type of treatment.

By way of contrast, many authorities would characterize psychotherapy as work that focuses on deeper issues and more long term change. It is generally longer term, and focuses on gaining insight into the more fundamental aspects of a person’s being — their fundamental relationship with themselves and with the world.

Counselling is Closer to Consciousness;  Psychotherapy Goes Deeper

Looked at from the perspective of the depth psychotherapist, counselling works nearer to consciousness, while psychotherapy is concerned with the deeper aspects of the person, and their fundamental orientation in life.  This often involves exploration of material from the unconscious, which may come from dreams, artwork or exploring unexpected or surprising reactions of the individual to situations in his or her life, among other sources.

In part, this explains why counselling tends to be shorter in duration than psychotherapy.  It simply takes more time to safely and respectfully get down into the depths of a person’s being.

counselling vs. psychotherapy

Counselling vs. Psychotherapy: Not Mutually Exclusive

Let me emphasize that counselling and psychotherapy are not two mutually exclusive things!  There is considerable overlap between these two forms of healing.  It may well be that, while an individual is doing psychotherapy, he or she may benefit from what would properly be called counselling on very specific and focused issues that he or she might be facing.

While psychotherapists have the skills necessary to provide counselling, counsellors may well not have the necessary education and skill-based background to provide psychotherapy — especially not depth psychotherapy.

One Can Lead to the Other

I find that it can often be that doing counselling leads an individual into doing psychotherapy.  Also, in the course of psychotherapy, an issue may well open up that is best approached in a counselling manner.  It’s important to stay open to both approaches as forms of healing work.

counselling vs. psychotherapy

Which is Right for You?

Whether counselling or psychotherapy is right for you is going to depend on your particular needs, based on what is going on in your life, your previous life experience, your temperament and make up, and on what may be trying to emerge in your life.

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But, What GOOD is It to See a Depth Psychotherapist? -2

February 23rd, 2014 · psychotherapist

Beyond the benefits I outlined in “What GOOD Is It to See a Depth Psychotherapist?, 1” there are two others: 1) developing genuine compassion for oneself; and. 2) passionately living out what’s really me.

psychotherapist

Passion?

 Self Compassion

Sometimes the hardest thing can be having compassion for ourselves.  Sometimes we really need someone to show us the way.

Often, we’ve received the message that there isn’t much or any room in the world for who we most fundamentally are.

Family… school… work… peers… all may have directly or indirectly told us that the person we truly are is not acceptable, and the only thing that is valued are our performances.

psychotherapist
Am I My Performances?

One of the most important things about work with a depth psychotherapist is the way that it focuses us in on who we really are — in depth — and gives us the opportunity to value ourselves for what we are, and to be valued by a supportive other.  It can a revelation to be valued, not for what we do, but for the vulnerable and unique reality that we each represent.

The relationship with the therapist, characterized by what Carl Rogers called “unconditional positive regard” is a key part of this.  The therapist holds up a mirror to the client that allows the client to see him or herself from a place of compassion.  That compassion is based on a deep level of empathy for all that has brought the client to their present place in life.  The continual effort is to bring the client to see his or her self and life in a comprehensive and empathic way — the way that the therapist sees him or her.

Passion: Living Out What’s Really Me

Too often, people live in a state of alienation from their genuine selves.  We very often get the message from many sources that the things that we really care about and value in life don’t matter, and that we must buckle down and accept “the realities of life”.  Those realities are economic, social, family-related, gender-related, and age-related — along with other constraints.  We learn “the rules”, or “the way it works”.  We can get so far away from what it is that we’re passionate about in life that we haven’t got the first foggy clue what there is that we could actually be passionate about.

The process of “just living” can sometimes remove the joy and the thrill of spontaneity from our lives.  It reminds me of singer John Mellencamp’s,  “Ballad of Jack and Diane”, about two 16 year olds in a small town, that contains those famous gray lines of desperation:

So let it rock. Let it roll.
Let the Bible Belt come and save my soul.
Hold on to 16 as long as you can
Changes come around real soon
Make us women and men….
 
Oh yeah life goes on
Long after the thrill of living is gone.
They say,
Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill of living is gone.

For very many people, it can feel as if the days of passion, of vitality in living are long gone.  Yet something within them remembers the passion and the dreams, what it was like to feel life coursing — and wants to feel it again.  Example: through psychotherapy, a man with a 30 year career in engineering discovers a passion for painting in nature.  As he puts it. “It’s like a door opened, and inside there was a whole new world!  I didn’t know I had this kind of a love for something still in me!”

psychotherapist

Often, work with a depth psychotherapist can begin to open up the connections to an individual’s passion and the real sources of joy in that person’s life. — sometimes in ways that are quite unexpected.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario 

905-337-3946

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But What GOOD is It to See a Depth Psychotherapist? -1

February 16th, 2014 · psychotherapist

I’ve being writing several posts about what to look for in a good depth psychotherapist, and what to expect if you go to see one — but what actual good does it do you, if you do?

psychotherapist

Clearly, depth psychotherapy won’t save the world.  Despite the number of big media therapists on daytime and prime time TV, therapists haven’t saved society as a whole.  But then, expecting psychotherapists to redeem the world from its social ills is a bit off base.

The question is really much, much more individual: what can a depth psychotherapist do for you?

An Ally, on the Most Fundamental Level

There is real psychological importance to having an unfailingly supportive ally as you open up your inner life and your own deep story.  We have many people in our lives, but the relationship with a psychotherapist is unique, in several ways.

psychotherapist

Journey’s better with an ally

One of the most important dimensions of the relationship with a depth psychotherapist is the emphasis on acceptance . There are very few relationships in life that truly strive for unconditional acceptance of the other. But that is the active goal of psychotherapy. For many people, to be listened to and accepted in this manner is something that they have never experienced before, that can create a genuine shift in their own relationship to themselves.

Similarly, many people will never have experienced a relationship where the focus is on the deepest and most fundamental things in their personal lives. As Nicholas Carr has pointed out in his book The Shallows, we live in an era where technology is pushing us towards a more and more superficial grasp of our lives. As one wit tweeted:

I used to have a deep and rich inner life ; now I have Twitter.

In this sense, psychotherapy moves in the exact opposite direction. The depth psychotherapist invites me to focus on, and be open to, the formidable richness of my inner life.

In addition, the way that the session with the psychotherapist is structured, with its strict boundaries of confidentiality, creates a safe place, a safe container for me to open up the important aspects of myself in safety, privacy, and support.

Better to Know, Than to Not Know

psychotherapist

Unknown shore of the self

Working with a depth psychotherapist most often brings greater knowledge of the self.  I can’t stress enough that, in the course of a human life, it’s infinitely better to have this knowledge, than not to have it. To wander through my life with no clear sense of my own identity, no knowledge of my own weaknesses and shadow, and no awareness of my deepest needs, yearnings and aspirations, is, to effectively miss living my own real life, to put it bluntly.  It is also to have no real awareness of my impact on anyone else.

C.G. Jung once said, “In each of us there is another, whom we do not know.” But he also said, “It is easier to go to Mars or the moon, than it is to penetrate one’s own being.” The encounter with a depth psychotherapist does not take all the difficulty out of that journey, but it does make it a great deal easier.

I hope that you’ll join me for Part 2 of “What GOOD is it to See a Psychotherapist?”… coming soon.

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Meeting with a Depth Psychotherapist: What to Expect

February 9th, 2014 · psychotherapist

So, if I find a good depth psychotherapist, and I meet with him or her, what can I expect?

psychotherapist

It’s a common question!  Many people wonder just what it would be like to embark on work with a depth psychotherapist.  They may be both attracted to such work, and a little apprehensive.  Just what does occur in such a meeting?

No Judgment

A central characteristic of depth psychotherapy in the Jungian tradition, is that the person who is coming for therapy / counselling (“analysis” as Jungians say) will not be judged or slotted in ways that distort or obscure his or her individual nature.

This means no moral judgment.  Intelligent individuals differ widely about morality.  It’s highly inappropriate for a depth psychotherapist to impose his or her morals , whether in open, explicit ways, or more hidden way. Avoiding the latter , particularly, is a key skill that a good psychotherapist must hone and develop.

But other key forms of judgement must also be avoided. It’s very important that the psychotherapist not impose his or her version of “common sense” on the client, either.  Again:  what is common sense to one intelligent individual is just the opposite to another.

Above all, the therapist must work to enable the client to be free of the collective judgement of “society” or “respectable people”. Often clients are already far too sensitive on this count, and, above all, need to experience an environment where they are free to express their deepest unique selves.

No “Cookie Cutter” Answers

So, almost needless to say, good depth psychotherapy must necessarily avoid “cookie cutter” or “ready made” answers to the dilemmas in an individual’s life.

The depth psychotherapist works with the individual to determine his or her own authentic response to the unique issues that she or he confronts.  This is often requires substantial support , for many of us are deeply wounded when it comes to the expression of our authentic selves.

psychotherapy

Some forms of therapy see the therapeutic goal as helping the individual to become “well adjusted” to society, the community, their work, etc.  A Jungian depth psychotherapist aims to help an individual to become fully who he or she fundamentally is.

Lots of Attention to my Individual Life and Story

A depth psychotherapist emphasizes the unique aspects of your story, and what it is that fundamentally makes you, you.

Often, it can vital for a person to relate their own story, the story of his or her life, and to have it met with genuine, close listening to by someone who is intensely interested in it.  This is not something that individuals get to do nearly often enough.

To look at my story intently, with discernment and compassion, with an ally who is firmly on my side — can lead to enormous growth of awareness of my fundamental identity.

psychotherapist

The “Undiscovered You” Will Get Taken Seriously…

So, you may well become aware of many aspects of yourself of which you were not aware.  This may happen as you examine your reactions to situations, your motivations, and your dreams. (Neuroscientists such as Profs. Solms and Turnbull are increasingly showing us that dreams are far from meaningless regurgitation of debris from the previous day.)

…and Welcomed

To experience these hitherto unknown aspects of myself, in a climate of accepting support from another, can be incredibly grounding and liberating.

I invite you to consider whether working with a depth psychotherapist might be an experience of healing for you, and an important part of your journey to wholeness.

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“How Do I Find a Good Depth Psychotherapist?”

February 2nd, 2014 · psychotherapist

Many people might want to do some meaningful personal work, but might wonder how to find a good depth psychotherapist.

psychotherapist

The simple answer: look for someone with the right personal characteristics.  “But how do I do that?“, you might ask.  Well, here are four really good signposts to follow.

1.  Don’t Pick a Psychotherapist with “All the Answers”

The first step in picking a good depth psychotherapist is not to pick a bad one.  Sounds obvious, but here are some important things to think about.

It’s very wise to avoid therapists who rely on glib slogans, or who only look at, feel, or think about the life situations of their clients in superficial ways.  (Example: a therapist who thinks the work is all about the Law of Attraction, or one specific technique.)

Also, watch for the use of psychological bafflegab (e.g., “power words” like “poststructuralist”, “dialectical” or “Lacanian”).  Especially watch for psychotherapists who are always emphasizing the power, insight  and authority of the therapist relative to the subordinate status of the client.  Hiding behind power can indicate a really, really bad psychotherapist.

This seemingly daunting task may come down to trusting your gut.  In other words, how do I actually feel about this potential psychotherapist?

Is the Person Actually a DEPTH Psychotherapist?

If you’re looking for a depth psychotherapist, it’s presumably because you actually want to get into a really in-depth understanding of your inner reality — to really get down to what’s fundamental.  If that’s what you want, then be sure you’re seeing a psychotherapist who wants the same thing.  Some therapists have training that enables them to foster this kind of inner connection.  Some therapists are trained to work in different ways that deliberately avoid this type of connection with the self.  I’m not saying that ‘s wrong, but it is a very different kind of approach with very different goals — and a very different understanding of the human being.

Example.  If a therapist emphasizes strict common sense, logical understanding and rationality, and doesn’t want to engage with feelings, or with aspects of personality that aren’t rational —  you’re probably not dealing with someone who is a depth psychotherapist.

Does the Psychotherapist Listen, and Care About My Story?

This is just pretty darn fundamental.  As Columbia University Professor of Psychiatry Deborah Cabaniss tells us, many studies suggest that the “alliance” with the therapist or counsellor is the single most important indicator of good therapeutic outcomes.

psychotherapist 

If I’m going to undertake a major journey with a psychotherapist, I really need to feel that he or she is really, truly listening to me — taking in the unique dimensions of me, and fully understanding how the things that I’m relating actually make me feel.  I have to feel that he or she is really “there with me” in those experiences, whether painful, joyful, meaningful or completely baffling.  And I need to know that this individual deeply cares about my story — really feels that my story matters.

Has This Psychotherapist Done His or Her Own Personal Work?

Closely connected with the point just above,  in choosing a psychotherapist, it’s very important for me to know that the person I’m going to sit with has done their own personal work.  By this  I mean, does the therapist have a good level of understanding of his or her own strongest feelings, motivations and inner life?  This is important because , as the old psychotherapeutic saying goes, you can’t take anyone anywhere that you haven’t been yourself.

psychotherapist

With the right depth psychotherapist, the exploration of Jungian therapy can often make a profound difference in an individual life.

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