What is Counselling / Psychotherapy?

Counselling and Psychotherapy

More commonly the difference between counselling and psychotherapy tends to be based on the level of formal education of the therapist and/or the depth of the therapeutic work. In general, those with a Diploma level of study in the relational aspects of human interaction will be Counsellors whereas those with a Masters degree will be Psychotherapists.


There are many approaches/methods of counselling and psychotherapy, all with the aim of helping a range of clients overcome a wide scope of concerns.  Those who seek psychotherapy can tend to be the every day person wanting to simply understand themselves better for self-improvement or may be experiencing a difficult time with bereavement and other life-changing events.

Psychiatrists and Psychologists

Psychiatrists have a medical degree and have specialised training in the study of mental disorders (diagnosis, management and prevention). They mainly tend to treat those with serious clinical mental illnesses and those who may need hospitalisation for their treatment. Only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication and you will need a referral from a GP to see a psychiatrist.


Psychologists on the other hand, have a degree in psychology where they learn the science of aspects of human behaviour. They perform research to experiment and measure aspects of human behaviour.

All psychiatrists and psychologists must legally be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia.

Counselling Approaches

Some psychologists study a counselling therapy component (typically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) in order to provide counselling services to clients rather than take a research path. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a popular psychotherapeutic approach following an action-plan type treatment.  This approach provides education and teaches tools and techniques to reduce and manage certain symptoms such as helping those who are unable to maintain a level of function and self-care (e.g. not getting out of bed for days or washing or eating which may be due to clinical depression or anxiety).


Humanistic approaches (e.g. Gestalt, Transactional Analysis or Person-Centered) are well suited to the exploration of relational issues including grief/loss, abuse, identity, self-confidence, and for personal growth. Humanistic therapy does not follow an action-plan. A free-flowing and deeper connection is developed between therapist and client so the most personal of thoughts and feelings can be discussed.

You do not need a referral from a GP to see a psychologist or psychotherapist.