Licensed Counselling and Psychotherapy
About counselling and psychotherapy
The distinction between a counsellor and a psychotherapist is a blurred one as they both work in a similar fashion to help their clients. In Austria the difference can be noted by the job description (licence) and education of the person providing the service. A counsellor (referred to as a Lebens- und Sozialberater) will generally have completed training lasting around 2,5 years (750 hours theory and practice) in order to obtain their licence whereas the training which a psychotherapist undergoes lasts a minimum of 5-7 years (3000 hours of theory and practice). The focus and scope of the training also differs in that counsellors are not required/allowed to work with people with mental health conditions. If you suspect your symptoms are acute or serious then you should seek help from a psychotherapist rather than a counsellor as you have the guarantee that they are appropriately trained and legally licenced to deal with your issues. It is also worth checking to see if the psychotherapist has expertise and/or further qualifications in dealing with your symptoms/problem area.
Psychotherapists and counsellors are also trained in terms of the theoretical models and techniques they employ in many different ways. If you take a look out there at the sorts of psychotherapy and counselling on offer you will find a large (and maybe even confusing) variety of terms. Practitioners claim to offer psychoanalysis, behavioural therapy (of which CBT is perhaps the most well-known variant), client-centred therapy, hypnotherapy, systemic therapy, transactional analysis, and the list goes on and on! Some psychotherapists and counsellors, like myself, even work with a number of methods. I work for instance with methods and techniques from systemic family therapy, emotionally focussed therapy and hypnotherapy/clinical hypnosis.
This diversity is understandably confusing for the consumer and I am frequently asked by friends and acquaintances which school of psychotherapy or counselling is good for what. The fact of the matter is that psychotherapy research consistently shows that the relationship between the psychotherapist or counsellor and client is one of the most significant factors. Indeed studies claim that the relationship contributes to 40% of the therapy/counselling outcome. Moreover technical factors such as which methods the theoretical models are employed by the psychotherapist or counsellor are said to account for only 10% of the therapy/counselling outcome.
In summary your best bet as a layman is to choose a psychotherapist or counsellor on the basis of how likeable, trustworthy, reliable and competent they appear to you and not on the basis of trying to match your needs to a specific technical approach or theoretical school of thought.
How and when can counselling and psychotherapy help?
Counselling and psychotherapy can help not just with mental health issues but also in times of crisis and when significant relationships come under pressure. There is a good body of scientific evidence to back up the claim that counselling and psychotherapy are effective in dealing with such issues and in helping to improve quality of life.
The question is sometimes asked as of which point in time it becomes advisable to seek out support from a counsellor or psychotherapist. I personally think that if you are asking this question then it is time. Another answer to this question would be to think about it as follows: normally our psyches are well equipped to deal with crises and difficulties. We find ways of dealing with our problems and after a while we even forget that we even had them. There are times however when neither our own attempts to solve our problems nor the comfort and support of family members, partners and friends seem to work. We start to mull the same things over again and again, we may even not feel understood and we can start to feel frustrated, depressed or angry. In times like this it is difficult to find an inner balance again. If you find that this description partially of fully applies to you then you would be well advised to seek help from a counsellor or psychotherapist.
If you suffering from the aftermath of traumatic experiences (e.g. experiences involving sexual and physical abuse, catastrophes and accidents etc.), chronic anxiety or panic, depression or more serious mental health issues then this is a clear indication for psychotherapy. If you are thinking about taking your own life or chronically harming yourself then you should additionally seek out help from a psychiatrist as soon as possible.
Topics for Counselling and Psychotherapy
I think it can be said that counselling and psychotherapy can (theoretically) help with any issue which affects mental well-being and in turn quality of life. It is therefore not possible to identify and list every topic here which counsellors and psychotherapists work with. The following is a list of those topics which are of particular interest to me and/or with which clients come to me most frequently. Clicking on the respective topic to read more.
Losing a loved one is tough. Feelings of intense sadness, anger, guilt and even relief (in for instance the case of prolonged sickness preceding the end of someone’s life) are common, normal, and healthy. They are necessary for psyche to process the loss. Indeed, excessive suppression can be unhealthy and lead to symptoms such as depression and an inability to move on. If you have lost a loved one and have the sense that feelings of grief are not subsiding or even that you have not been able to express them and work through them, the psychotherapy can help.
The term psychosomatic is used to refer to symptoms which are physical and medically-measurable and which are aggravated by psychological factors. These symptoms are real and are not just “all in the mind”. Coronary heart disease, gastritis and back problems are all examples of psychosomatic symptoms. Stress has a well documented influence on psychsomatic disorders. Stress results in body tension, weakens the immune system and can disturb important self-care routines like eating and sleeping. There are also instances in which symptoms cannot be verified by medical means. Such symptoms are called somatoform disorders. Examples of somatoform disorders are the feeling of losing control of a body part, a subjective feeling of pain for which there no medical evidence, constant worry about health or body parts. There can be a number of reasons for a somatoform disorder. Supressed feelings, a heightened sensitivity to physical sensations, a pronounced sense of vulnerabilty or the conviction that one’s health is fragile can all contribute to the origin and perpetuation of the somatoform disorder. Psychotherapy can help you to identify sources of stress, concern and conflict behind psychsomatic and somatoform conditions, to explore ways of finding relief and to develop alternate strategies in delaing with pressure, tension and anxiety.
Get in touch
Kevin J. Hall, MSc
Psychotherapist (SF), Dipl. Coach, Austrian Coaching Council Senior Coach, Hypnotherapist
+43 1 9900858
WISH Mindscience, Straßgschwandtnerstraße 4/1, 1140 Vienna, Austria