A psychologist, psychiatrist, counsellor and psychotherapist walk into a bar...

November 8, 2017

‘So, I’m an intern psychotherapist’ …


‘Umm, so Amar is that the same as a psychologist?’ 


I'm asked this question very often:


‘What’s the difference between counselling, psychology, psychiatry & psychotherapy?’ 


So here we go…


There are some BIG differences between these four, each approach having a unique place. 


Psychotherapy is a huge field using many different approaches. Process-oriented psychotherapists are taught to view themselves holistically, listen to themselves deeply & use their experience to help their clients live congruently. 


Psychiatrists train to be medical doctors first, then complete additional training to diagnose & treat mental/emotional ‘illness’. As a result of their pedigree they tend to pathologise mental conditions, prescribe drugs & commit people into institutional care when they feel appropriate. 


Psychology focusses on understanding human behaviour. 


Both psychology & psychiatry follow the scientific belief that consciousness is brain-based (‘mechanistic’). The irony of this mainstream view is that in my enquiry there’s no pragmatic research that supports brain-based models of consciousness to the exclusion of others.


One of the biggest problems with this type of brain-based view is that it creates separation between mind and body. Ultimately I think its best to see brain-based views of consciousness as helpful but limited & just as incomplete now as they were hundreds of years ago. 


This reality will not change with the prescription of more sophisticated pharmaceuticals. 

It’s not just the allopathic (mainstream) health system that’s in denial. Many people hold contradictory views & flip between them whenever one minimises their pain (i.e. ‘I have free will’ & ‘everything happens for a Reason’). 


It’s worth remembering there are different ways of seeing... 


For example, I love the idea that life is the richest when people live congruently with their beliefs, actions & speech. It’s for this reason I choose a more complete view of consciousness than the brain-based (the materialist) perspective alone. 


Many of my clients have found the materialist (brain-based) view of psychology & psychiatry to be ‘missing something’, which is what led them into my care in the first place.


The ‘something missing’ is often that neither psychology nor psychiatry apply a model of the human that deeply acknowledges their ‘soul’.


Jungian & post-Jungian psychotherapists (like me) adopt a holistic view of human consciousness that includes their soul & ‘Spirit’. ‘Soul’ is a broad concept unique to each person & includes the theatre of their experience (i.e. 'qualia' in Western philosophy of mind). 


‘Spirit’ reflects a holistic level of reality. Jungian & post-Jungian psychotherapy focuses on integrating & harmonising the relationship of the individual with their soul & Spirit.

For my clients who struggle with or reject the ideas of ‘soul’ & ‘Spirit’ I use existential psychotherapy. Existential psychotherapy asserts that people improve their reality when they live harmoniously with certain immutable realities that make up our human condition (such as the need for connection & the cycles of life & death). It also takes no position on the existence or non-existence of a soul nor on a holistic level of reality. 

Counsellors make suggestions & potentially instruct their clients what to do, whilst psychotherapists believe people know the answers to all their own challenges – they sometimes need support uncovering them.


It’s my hope that people understand that not all mental health care professionals use the same methods or view human experience through the same lens. 

Just because you may have had a negative experience with one of them doesn’t mean that there's not a more suitable modality to support you, one that aligns with how you see both yourself & the wider world.

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