What is the difference between a counsellor, a therapist / psychotherapist, a CBT therapist, a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

The Counsellor

​Counselling is a type of talking therapy but it is also a type of therapy in its own right. A counsellor allows a person to talk about their problems, and any negative thoughts and feelings in a confidential and safe environment and is trained to listen with empathy. They  can help with many mental health conditions and many counsellors now undergo similar extensive training as therapists/psychotherapists.

The Therapist / Psychotherapist

Similar to counselling, psychotherapy is a type of talking therapy but is also a type of therapy in its own right. Due to the broad use of the terms, the titles counsellor or therapist/psychotherapist are often used interchangeably while areas of the two professions do overlap. However, psychotherapists tend to work on longer-term concerns that range from emotional difficulties to psychiatric disorders.

The CBT Therapist

A CBT therapist is a mental health professional who has trained specifically in the cognitive behavioural approach (see below). They tend to work with clients on a short-term basis, with a more goal-orientated and practical approach to problem-solving. Rather than talking spontaneously about your life, you and your CBT therapist will focus on specific problems and will set goals for you to achieve.

The Psychologist

There are many areas of psychology, (health, educational clinical, neuro, counselling, forensic, research, occupational and sport). A psychologist who has trained in psychotherapy blends therapeutic practice with scientific research and theory.They tend to take on more serious, long-term issues and apply their understanding of the medical context and diagnosis of certain mental health problems in these cases.

The Psychiatrist​

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and who has specialised in psychiatry, which is the study of mental health disorders. This includes diagnosis, management and prevention. Psychiatrists tend to work with those with more severe conditions and that require medical intervention. They also receive training in psychotherapy and may provide various kinds of talking therapies.

All these professional practitioners above are non-judgemental and treat sessions with their clients as confidential.

What types of counselling / therapy approaches are there?

​There are four main approaches.


A psychodynamic approach is based on psychoanalytic principles and assumes that drives and forces within us shape our experiences and distress. It therefore focuses on helping us become aware of hidden meanings and patterns in what we say or do that may be contributing to our problems.


A cognitive-behavioural approach assumes that our thought processes affect the way in which we behave. It therefore focuses on learned behaviour and examines how beliefs and thoughts are linked to our feelings and behaviour. It teaches us skills that retrain our style of thinking and in turn our behaviour, and helps us manage stressful situations.


A humanistic approach assumes that every person has their own unique way of perceiving and understanding the world and that the things they do only make sense in this light. It therefore focuses on subjective experience, personal meaning and self-worth.  It helps us to think about ourselves more positively and aims to improve our self-awareness.


A narrative approach assumes that it is the stories and the way stories are told by ourselves and others that shape our lives. It therefore focuses on helping clients identify their own values and identify the skills and knowledge they have to live these values and together create a new and more positive story.


Note: It is important to recognise that a comfortable and safe relationship between you and your  counsellor / therapist commonly referred to as a ‘therapeutic relationship’, regardless of the approach, is evidenced-based to be the catalyst for positive change.

What do I need to ask any counsellor / therapist before choosing the best match for me?
  • Which professional organisations do you belong to?
  • Do you have professional indemnity insurance?
  • Which approach do you use (CBT, Psychodynamic, Humanistic etc.)

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