There are several different types of counsellors and therapists who will be able to help with your self-development. The major differences relate to their training or membership of their professional body.


Are medically trained doctors who specialise in mental health. Whilst they are qualified to prescribe various medications, they’re also highly trained to deliver different type of therapy. In order to see a psychiatrist, you will need a referral from a GP. You can request your GP to refer you to a particular psychiatrist if you wish.


Have a rigorous background in the scientific study of human behaviour and their training reflects a strong emphasis on validity of measures and reliable evidence of effective interventions. Psychologists typically undertake formal tertiary study plus a prescribed number of years of work under professional supervision from another registered psychologist in order to qualify. Clinical and counselling psychologists usually provide psychological treatment from various orientations such as cognitive behavioural (CBT), and Gestalt, humanistic and client centred and psychodynamic approaches. These and other theoretical stances really reflect a different way of understanding and describing clients’ issues.


Have very varied training, from a Masters in counselling to a few weeks by correspondence, and at present in Australia any one can call themselves a counsellor or a psychotherapist. PACFA has been set up to protect the public with regard to the standards and ethical training that should accompany these professions.


Attempt to help the client to positively reorganise negative experiences of themselves or others. In essence psychotherapy is an attempt to heal the “self” when the client is not functioning as well as they would like. A developmental perspective usually informs psychotherapy. Psychotherapists usually have an approved tertiary degree, experience in the helping professions and personal suitability to become psychotherapists. Many psychologists and psychiatrists choose to practice psychotherapy and undertake training in this area. Psychotherapists, to register as clinical members of an accredited *organisation must be engaged in a minimum of several hours a week conducting psychotherapy and undertake regular professional development in terms of reading, lectures, conferences and seminars. PACFA (Psychotherapists and Counsellors Federation of Australia) is the organisation to which counsellors and psychotherapists who meet these standards may belong either as individuals, or as part of accredited organisations.

Psychotherapists are trained in a number of psychodynamic theories, and there is quite passionate argument about which theory is the most correct! Psychotherapists consider that “empathic fit” or the relationship between themselves and their client to be the most important determining factor influencing the effectiveness of the therapy.

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