Choosing the right psychotherapist, counsellor or art pychotherapist - a simple guide to help you...
Choosing the right psychotherapist, counsellor or art psychotherapist is really important to your journey to a happier and healthier place in life. It can be just as much about personality as it is about qualifications and specialised training in specific schools of thought in therapy. Personal preference plays a big part in the success of therapy as well as having an open mind and being committed to the process.
But how do you find the best fit for you? Do you want or need someone to listen sensitively to your story so that you can quietly find your own way or do you need someone who will help you to challenge your beliefs and ways of being? Do you want or need someone who can support you in delving into your past to explore more deeply the roots of emotions or do you want to remain in the present and receive support in changing your daily thoughts and beliefs? What defences are you adopting from preventing you from potentially choosing the right therapy for you? Are you choosing a gentle approach so that you can continue to adopt those defences or are you open to the idea of change and growth? The truth is, there are so many different types of psychotherapists or counsellors out there today and it can become quite overwhelming when looking for one, especially when it is probably at a time when you feel most vulnerable and fragile.
Not only does the psychotherapist or counsellor have differences in their training, they also develop their own styles and adopt specific schools of thought to focus on to help you. So, effectively, not one counsellor or psychotherapist is the same as another! I am a big believer that you need to feel a connection with your therapist. You need to feel that they are going to meet you in your dark place and hear what you have to say with empathy and without judgement. You need to be able to trust the space, trust your therapist and trust the therapeutic relationship.
There are, of course, many other styles of therapy such as acupuncture, homeopathic remedies, holistic therapies such reflexology, that can be extremely effective. Not everyone chooses a talking therapy or even a creative therapy such as what I offer. Whatever your preference, what is important is that you allow yourself time, you allow yourself to potentially feel slightly worse for a while whilst your mind and body process the explorations of your sessions and you allow yourself to breath. Your therapist will support you all the way.
I am not going to profess to being an expert in all fields therapy and, for the sake of this small article, I will just be focussing on counselling, psychotherapy and art psychotherapy. I just want to give you a simple guide to help you find the right therapist for you.
Counselling versus Psychotherapy and Art Psychotherapy
The main difference between counsellors and psychotherapists is the academic training required to becoming accredited. Counsellors can either choose the diploma route or they can do a degree in counselling. Every course is rooted in a specific academic theory, such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and the counsellor may or may not then go on to do further training in other school's of thought to further their continued professional development. This informs the way that they conduct their therapy sessions. An integrative counsellor will utilise many different schools of thought such as gestalt, CBT or systemic (family) counselling.
A psychotherapist has to be trained to post graduate degree level and can take much longer to qualify, often leading to a Masters. The training is, therefore, more academically routed. As with counselling, the different practices reflect the different theories and your psychotherapist will be qualified in whatever school of thought they have been trained in. Whether it is psychodynamic theories, gestalt or systemic, they should continue to grow as practitioners so as to help you and your individual needs.
It is thought that counsellors work short term on a specific issue such as bereavement and psychotherapists work longer term on more complicated and enduring issues. In reality, the professions overlap and really depend on the experience and training of each individual.
An Art Psychotherapist has to have a Masters in Art Psychotherapy and the theories that underlie this are psychodynamic. I shall explain more on this a bit later on. Along with whatever degree they have previously studied, the Masters in Art Psychotherapy then takes 3 years to achieve. An Art Psychotherpist uses artmaking and conversation to help you explore your unconscious processes, your story, your ways of relating to yourself and others and your identity.
The titles 'Psychotherapist' and 'Counsellor' are not legally protected so it is vital that you check your therapist's credentials and training before starting sessions. The title of an Art Psychotherapist is legally protected and they have to be registered as a Health Care Professional with the HCPC. This means that they are regulated by the HCPC and only individuals registered with the HCPC can call themselves an 'Art therapist' or 'Art Psychotherpist'. The HCPC requires Art Psychotherapists to perform to a certain standard, to continue their professional development, have relevant education and training, as well as to adhere to certain ethical and conduct standards.
Throughout their training, their practice and continued professional development, Art Psychotherapists will also study other theories and schools of thought. For example, I am psychodynamically trained, but I adopt a very person-centred approach and often use mindfulness techniques to help you explore your difficulties holistically, mind, body and soul. I believe that I learn from you what your individual needs are. You are the expert and through listening, I learn from you. From what I then learn, I reflect back to you to help you with your emotional upset. So, again, this is where the specific interests and training of your chosen therapists come to light and become just as important to suit your individual needs.
Here is a simple guide to a handful of academic theories used within counselling, psychotherapy and art psychotherapy. It is important to find out what your chosen therapist uses so that you can find the best fit for you:
The focus here is on the unconscious and how it can hold onto past trauma and upset, causing us to develop unhealthy defences. This can inhibit our relationships and often cause us to lose our way or even our true identities. By exploring the projections, transferences and counter-transferences within the sessions and by exploring the way you relate to yourself and others, your therapist will help you to understand the deep roots of your difficulties and to reach a peace or resolution with them. This allows for self-growth and self-acceptance, leading to a happier future.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
CBT aims to help you change the way you think (cognitive) and what you do (behaviour). Rather than looking at past causes, it focusses on current problems and practical solutions to help you feel better. The way we think about situations affects the way we feel and behave. If we view a situation negatively, we may experience negative emotions and feelings which lead us to behave in an unhelpful way. Your therapist will help you identify and challenge any negative thinking so you can deal with situations better and behave in a more positive way. This kind of therapy does not explore the roots of why you think negatively but does help you change your reaction to it.
The name Gestalt is derived from the German for ‘whole’ or ‘pattern’. It looks at the individual as a whole, and within their environment. Practitioners help you to focus on the here and now and your immediate thoughts, feelings and behaviour to better understand how you relate to others and to situations. It is a person-centred therapy and often invites you to question the way you relate to yourself by way of acting out scenarios and answering your own thoughts and feelings for yourself.
As an Art Psychotherapist and Psychotherapist, I tend to integrate all of the above theories, mainly psychodynamic and person-centred, to help you piece back the fragmented parts through talking and artmaking.
The aim of all psychotherapists, counsellors and art psychotherapists is to create an environment in which you feel safe discussing your feelings. For this reason, it is just as much about academic training as it is about a connection and even a gut feeling. You need to feel comfortable in your sessions and feel that you can move forward with your therapist in a gentle and positive direction. Therapy can be painful because you are potentially exploring and even challenging deep rooted and unhealthy ways of being. Sometimes, it might feel uncomfortable but your therapist will sit with you through this discomfort and unease and enable you to eventually reach a peace or resolution. Gradually, with the help of your therapist, you will grow to discover a happier and healthier existence.
Ultimately, I want that for all my clients. I want you to reach a place where you are not dependent on therapy and can live your life free from past grievances and the chains that have held you down. As previously mentioned, I am a HCPC registered Art Psychotherapist and I am psychodynamically trained, enabling me to use talking, listening and creative techniques within my sessions. If you would like to know more then please do take a look at my website or my other blog articles. My door is always open to help so if any of this resonates with you then please feel warmly welcome to contact me on 07840049326 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Due to Covid-19, I have changed the way that I work until it is deemed safe to resume face to face sessions. I currently offer online psychotherapy sessions, using skype or zoom and these focus on exploring your difficulties through talking rather than the additional tool of art making. As always, these sessions are completely confidential.
I hope that this article has shed some light on the differences and similarities between psychotherapy, counselling and art psychotherapy and helped you to find the best fit for your needs.