Differences Between Counseling and Psychotherapy
Counseling Theories August 3, 1999
Running head: Coun. v. 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
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
insights into everyday behavior. Psychotherapy can be defined as “more
inclusive re-education of the individual” (Brammer& Shostrom,1977).
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.
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).
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Overview.New York: McGraw Hill.
Bettelheim, B. & Rosenfeld, A. (1993). The Art of the Obvious…Developing
Insight For Psychotherapy and Everyday Life.New York: Knopf.
Brammer, L . & Shostrom, E. (1977). Theraputic Psychology: Fundamentals
of Counseling and Psychotherapy Third Edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Rogers, C. (1951). Client Centered Therapy. New York:Houghton Mifflin.
Shostrom, E. (1967). Man the Manipulator.Nashville, Tennessee: