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Counselling and CBT - Is it the same thing?

Updated: Oct 10, 2023


Counselling and CBT

We often hear our clients refer to their CBT sessions as counselling, but despite both being talking therapies, their focus and approach is rather different.


To briefly explain it, counselling is an exploratory approach, it helps you enhance your understanding of things and helps you figure out your own answers to your difficulties via encouraging self-reflection and self-awareness. The things you might talk about may include past and present life events, relationships, the impact things are having on you etc.


Counselling is good for issues like loss, change, bereavement, relationship breakdowns/difficulties etc. And good when there's things you would like to talk through with the help of someone else. But it won't give you strategies. The counselling practitioner's role is to listen, show empathy, encourage and facilitate you to enhance your self-awareness.


CBT


CBT is similar in some ways, in that the initial few sessions where we 'formulate' enable us to explore and understand your lived experience and identify essentially what's led to what. But then the next step is moving forward from this, because we now know and understand the origins of for example your unhelpful beliefs/thoughts/behaviours/feelings, what vicious cycle you are in and what's maintaining it. So we then move on to figuring out how we can change these things and replace as many of the unhelpful ways of thinking/behaving and feeling with more helpful and healthier alternatives.


So CBT is more here-and-now focused and actively gives you alternative strategies. It's also very structured, there will be a treatment plan in place aimed at helping you to achieve your goals. After the formulation process each session that you have will equip you with more and more strategies/tools and will be working towards breaking through more and more components of your vicious cycle.

Strategies

So the key questions it would be good to ask yourself to figure out what approach would work best for you are:


  • Am i wanting strategies or just to talk through my issues (if your wanting strategies then CBT can help, if not then counselling would be better)

  • Am i ready to make changes? (if not then counselling would be a better approach)




Here at Simply Psychotherapy we provide CBT and not counselling. If your therapist feels you would benefit from an alternative approach then they will let you know. Sometimes we ask our clients to either have counselling before they start their CBT sessions to help them focus and be ready to make changes or after our sessions with them have ended if they feel there are still things they wish to explore from an exploratory perspective.


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