This is a question I hear a lot. A big part of the answer relates to specialisations in the mental health field, and what different professionals in counselling and psychology bill themselves as ‘experts’ in.
The thing is with counselling (as opposed to psychology), we don’t tend to put as much emphasis on specialisations because of one important reason – we are far more interested in what the client wants to focus on and change in their lives rather than what our particular specialty might dictate.
All counsellors have specialties they have focused on in their studies and in their careers, but these don’t get the primary focus when a client comes to talk. In counselling, we start where the client is and where they want to be, not the other way around.
Psychologists are trained in a medical approach to mental health, where they view themselves as experts with specialist knowledge, and they see their clients as coming to them for specialist diagnosis and treatment.
This obviously works well for some people, particularly those with serious mental health conditions, but for the vast majority of people this is not a necessary (or particularly helpful!) focus.
Counselling has more of a client-centred approach, where the client is viewed as the expert in their life and we are there as vehicles for supporting a greater realisation of their hopes for the future, whatever that might mean for the particular individual.
At the end of the day, the most well-supported research in this area indicates that in all therapy the main factor for success is the client’s working relationship with their counsellor or psychologist. Therefore the most important thing in picking a mental health professional is not about specialisation but about how well you relate to them, and if you believe they can help you.
I’ll keep adding more articles on this in the future but hope for now this short summary is helpful, and please contact us if you have any comments or questions about this.
Best, Adrian Holmes
This article first appeared on the CounsellingAtHome.com Blog – click the link to see the original post