Monday, December 21, 2015

Counselor Versus Therapist

     I have written before about the difference between counseling and therapy/psychotherapy. A similar question is What is the difference between a counselor and a therapist? While I think that one is still more developed (or higher) than the other - specifically that being a therapist is higher than a counselor - my reasoning for the difference between the two are different. I don't know if my new reasoning is correct - perhaps that is why I am writing all this down. My thought has to do with level of training and how a clinician practices. Could it be that a therapist is an experienced counselor (perhaps of a couple of years) who has created their own, or implemented an existing theoretical orientation that increases the effectiveness of therapy.
     I have raged against the need for implementation of theoretical orientation in the past. I still don't think that theoretical orientations are the most important things in therapy, but they do have their place. It is important here to discuss when to implement a theoretical orientation and to what degree. A counselor should stay a counselor for a significant time, studying theories of course, but primarily practicing the basic skills of counseling that provide a positive bedrock off of which to build a theoretical orientation. Echoing what I have said in previous entries, my opinion on this subject is that every clinician should review much relevant literature and then create their own orientation that works for them. The "when" is a difficult question here. When does a counselor graduate to therapist? Who graduates them? How does the counselor know that he or she is ready?
     These are amazingly challenging questions, for sure. I am not sure that there are absolute answers to these, but I will still give it a shot. A counselor, as said, should be constantly researching different theories and techniques. Perhaps the moment when a counselor becomes a therapist is when he or she becomes so comfortable with the base counseling skills that he or she hits a ceiling in practice or that they feel stuck where they are. At this point, the logical response is to change something. Sometimes, the change is to review the basic counseling techniques (like Rogerian/client-centered therapy or motivational interviewing, if one bends that way). Sometimes, the change is to add more: in this case, we would add theoretical techniques more strongly into therapy.
     Such a graduation comes about in different time periods. Different clinicians take different amount of times to do things. This does not necessarily mean that one clinician is better than another, because he or she takes less/more time to learn things; I think the opposite might be the case, as frequently the clinician who pushes the learning process learns less.
     It is important for the budding therapist to gain supervision when creating and implementing his/her own therapy. In my opinion, a serious therapist should show proof of their learning through writing or reading texts. Just because a therapist thinks that something is a good idea doesn't mean that it is. Generally, if a clinician finds something in the literature, especially seminal literature, normally that is OK to use right out of the bag.

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