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Understanding therapist titles: What is a counsellor?

by Sarah Graham
Wednesday 07 January 2015
1237 3804

When you're searching for a therapist on, you'll come across various different professional titles. It can be difficult to know what each title means - Do I need a psychologist or a counsellor? A psychoanalyst or a psychotherapist? - so, to clear things up, we asked a number of RSCPP therapists to explain what their title means and what you can expect from that type of therapist.


So what is a counsellor? Registered Counsellor Karen Dempsey explains:

A counsellor is a talking therapist: you talk, the counsellor listens. The counsellor does not offer advice or direct you to a particular solution, but instead believes that you have the resources and answers within you. The counselling process helps to draw those out. 

Many counsellors are person-centred, meaning that the focus is on the client rather than the counsellor.


How do counsellors work?

Counsellors generally offer sessions of 50 minutes at the same time and place each week. The first session will be spent understanding the issues that you are bringing to counselling, as well as some background about you and your life.

The counsellor does not have an agenda or a plan to sort out your life; they will work with what you bring to each session, gently exploring the issues through reflection and questioning, to help you reach your own understanding. Counselling offers a space of empathy, acceptance and authenticity that allows you to express your fears, hopes and feelings.

The minimum number of sessions is generally six if you are bringing a specific issue to counselling, but counselling work can be ongoing over several months.


How can counselling help?

Speaking to a counsellor can help you explore your feelings, needs and troubles in a space that is confidential, safe and empathic. It can also help clarify your thoughts and help you find a way through your current difficulties.

Counselling can help you build self-awareness and self-trust, help you find coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety, and can help you identify ways to improve your relationships. It can also bring a stronger sense of who you are in the world.


What training does a counsellor have?

Counsellors will have completed training in counselling, and will be registered or accredited members of a professional body – adhering to its ethics and code of practice.

Finding support

If you are concerned about the issues raised in this article then you may like to read about finding the right therapist for you. If this route is not appropriate for you, your GP can assess you and direct you towards support.

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Updated 07 January 2015