Counselling typically focusses on addressing a specific problem or issue during a limited number of sessions (the total number of sessions can be agreed
on in advance), whereas Psychotherapy
is generally a more in-depth and open-ended approach where the person is looked at more as a whole and the process is allowed to run its natural course over months or years rather than restricting it to a time limit at the outset.
The term "talking cure" was coined over 100 years ago by a patient (Bertha Pappenheim) who found that her problematic symptoms were alleviated through regular sessions of talking with her doctor (Josef Breuer) about her experiences, memories and fantasies. From these beginnings Breuer's associate Sigmund Freud dedicated his life's work to the further developing of this "talking cure" as a treatment for ailments patients brought to him - a medical doctor - that had no identifiable physiological cause. This was the origin of our modern-day practices of counselling and psychotherapy.
"Treatment", "cure", and "patients" are all terms derived from medical practice and have limited accuracy for the practice of counselling/psychotherapy. While it is our experience at Talking Cure that certain problems can be cured by talking, we find it more appropriate to think in terms of "change" rather than "cure". Counselling and psychotherapy can certainly bring about many changes in a person's life, though the outcome for any particular case cannot be guaranteed in advance. Outcomes of counselling or psychotherapy vary according to the nature of the problem being presented, the person's life circumstances and commitment to their therapy, the expertise of the therapist, and the quality and strength of the relationship that is established between the therapist and patient/client.
Counselling and Psychotherapy
Both Counselling and Psychotherapy involve meeting with a specially trained person - a therapist - to talk freely about your life in a confidential setting where you can feel safe and private.
Why See A Therapist?
People can be suspicious of therapy, feeling that if they have a problem they ought to be able to simply talk to their family or friends about it.
But often it's not that simple.
Our family and friends are very involved with us. At certain times, or with certain issues, it might be hardest to talk to those we are most involved with, or hardest for those closest to us to be able to help. We might feel there is something we want to say but we don't know how to say it, or that if trying to talk goes wrong a lot is at stake.
With a therapist, nothing is at stake. A therapist is an outsider who listens confidentially, objectively and non-judgmentally, who enables you to talk uninhibitedly about whatever is on your mind, and who is skilled at helping you to share the fruits of the therapeutic process with the important people in your life in a way that can enormously benefit your personal and professional relationships.
Most people can probably relate to some aspect of the experience shown in this painting - an experience of feeling alone and anxious while it appears things around you are closing in (the twining ivy), fragmenting (the panes of glass), fraying (the tapestry of figures/relationships).
Such an experience is usually unwelcome and is considered negative, but it does also present the opportunity for positive change: the ivy growing wild could stand for the destructive potential of nature's dangerous forces, or life-giving nature with its power to heal; shattering the glass breaks through reflected images and brings the chance to see more clearly and directly; and the unravelling of old patterns in the tapestry can allow new reels of colourful thread to be woven in with greater knowledge and freedom of choice.
Painting: 'The Lady of Shalott' by Linda Garland
© D Falck 2014
"Sometimes talking is the best medicine"