Therapy is a term that is often used interchangeably with psychotherapy and counseling. Therapy does not refer to a process different from psychotherapy or counseling, but rather it is a general term that can be used for both. Although this sometimes confusing, it is also reflective of the many shared elements of psychotherapy and counseling. Both psychotherapy and counseling assist clients in achieving major life goals and gathering understanding of ourselves. Both help clients address barriers to achieving those goals. Both involve meeting on a regular basis, usually weekly, with a professional with a graduate degree in social work or psychology.
Counseling tends to be solution focused. For example, career counseling assists clients with the goal of making a career transition, or obtaining and maintaining a job. Couples counseling assists a couple in generating positive communication. In life, we often talk about things we would like to accomplish, yet we struggle with actually making these things happen. Counseling involves a systematic assessment of what keeps us from reaching our goals so that we can successfully address these barriers. Individual insight is gained in the service of achieving goals set out for counseling.
Psychotherapy tends to be focused on the individual. Although we all have goals in life, sometimes it takes a deeper understanding of ourselves in order to achieve what we want. Sometimes we need to seek a larger meaning in life in order for the other pieces to fall into place. In psychotherapy, we seek to understand our desires and struggles as they relate to our essential sense of self. Psychotherapy helps us build meaningful ways of relating to others and the world at large.
That being said, there are times when counseling may entail the exploration and development of the self. There are also times when psychotherapy may become more focused. Ultimately, the content of each session is determined by the needs of each individual at that specific moment.