It happens – you hit a fork in the road and don’t know which path to take. This is a natural thing, and it’s OK to ask for help.
When you get to this point in your path it can be confusing to know who to turn to. It is good to do some research before it happens, to have it clear in your mind who to call for help. However, what usually happens is that you don’t know you even need help until it’s almost crunch time. Most of the research into what form of support you need to get for yourself can be rushed, and there is not a lot of information out there that is simple and straightforward in how they compare the different forms of support available.
I hope this post can help some of you who may be at this point already and are wondering what the difference really is, between a psychotherapist, a counsellor, a life coach and a healer. I also hope that it is of interest to those of you who may not be in crisis, but want to do something positive to improve your lives.
I must stress up-front that the explanations in this post are my opinions. As I offer all of these services in my practice I am writing this from the angle that I actually take as a therapist, when in session.
We can never see ourselves, and sometimes we don’t even hear ourselves either. Or we miss the important bits. We have all the answers we need inside us, and counselling is about reflecting back what was said in a safe space. You come to counselling to talk through issues that are clouding your judgement, through behaviours that you wish to change or to get help seeing things in a different way. It’s usually a few sessions over a short amount of time, working with current problems without going to deeply into past issues. However in the case of Bereavement, more long term counselling support may be required.
The Psyche is the totality of the human mind, how we are made the way we are. Psychotherapy goes deeper than counselling, looking at how past issues shaped you so that you can understand how you react to things, and why you do the things you do. I always think that as a counsellor I’m holding a mirror up, or pointing out things that a client has missed; as a psychotherapist I hold the client’s hand and together we go on a journey that transforms both of us in some way. There may be homework involved (such as conversations with family members, or journaling) or techniques to learn (such as stress-management, anger-management). Overall psychotherapy is a trust-based relationship between a client and a psychotherapist. The number of sessions varies, it can be long term or short term work, or bursts of work, then a rest, and then more work over several years. Ultimately, it is up to the client to decide where they want to go with the work, and up to the psychotherapist to see that they get there.
You can imagine an athlete running laps with the coach keeping time, blowing the whistle, telling the athlete to run faster, to slow down, to change posture… That’s the job of a coach – to get you motivated, to set goals, to lay out a plan and to help you achieve them. Life coaching looks at life balance issues such as work, rest, play and relationships, to help you structure your life better and feel happier, healthier and more confident in who you are. You could be given techniques to learn, homework to do, it might even involve you taking classes in a skill that you need for work so that you can perform smarter and spend less time in the office. Coaching may require several sessions over a period of time so the coach can track results and see the goals through to the end.
When I do healing work with a client, it’s the client that actually does the healing. A good healer holds space for the client to heal; they orchestrate or facilitate the healing, once the client gives permission, through both of their intentions.
There are so many variations of healing methods out there I can really only talk about my own work here. A client can come and talk to me about what they want to heal, talk about the experience of the healing, sometimes all throughout the healing, and then talk afterwards about how it felt for them – or they can say nothing at all.
It’s subtle, or it’s powerful. It’s obvious or it’s hidden, it all depends on where the client is, their journey in life, and what they have come to heal. Some people don’t see the results until after a session, when they discover that they no longer lose their temper so easily, or crave chocolate anymore. Some people feel the results straight away – feeling lighter in themselves, happier, clear.
Healing doesn’t work directly with the mind, whereas the other techniques do. But sometimes we can be stuck in our minds, and the healing work compliments that by either allowing our minds to catch up with our emotional bodies, or enabling our emotional bodies to let go and catch up with our minds. It’s good to do a combination of mind and body work to stay in balance with where we are on our journey.
About.com is a great resource, here are some articles about Psychotherapy, Crisis Counselling , Counselling for Depression and Life Coaching for Fathers. The Counselling for Depression article talks about the Counselling relationship and what to expect from your counsellor.
If you’d like to read more, here’s a blog post I wrote a while back: What is it exactly that you heal? I also have some information on Psychotherapy, Spiritual Counselling and Shamanic Healing on my website. Feel free to contact me if you would like to know more information or to book a session.