I’m often asked “What is Psychotherapy? How is it different from Psychology?”
Exploring the field of available therapies can be a bit daunting, as there are so many different modalities to choose from. One of the biggest questions in my mind has been wondering exactly how psychology and psychotherapy differ, and what, if any, are the similarities? Are they, in fact, just two different ways of looking at the same mental health issues?
Both modalities are concerned with supporting mental health and well being, however, I have found that their underlying philosophies differ. Broadly, I find psychology tends to be science-based, and focussed on the mind, and mental characteristics, whereas psychotherapy adopts a more holistic approach, incorporating the soul, or the inner life of the person, exploring the “roots” or issues underlying a disturbance, with an emphasis on achieving personal growth and awareness.
Psychology and Psychotherapy are both evidence-based practices and involve training at a University level. A practitioner may bring aspects of both psychology and psychotherapy into their practise. They also both abide by strict professional guidelines, governed by membership of professional associations such as PACFA, the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia.
My interest in understanding human behaviour probably began with an interest in people and places as a small child. This was further developed during my early twenties through my studies in Social Geography and Town Planning at University, maturing to become a lifelong interest in helping those seeking to make a difference in their lives.
I started studying Psychology at University as a mature-aged student in 2005, but was uncomfortable with the emphasis on science and statistics.
Realising I was looking for something more personal, and an opportunity to develop practical skills, I came across the post-graduate Holistic Counselling and Psychotherapy course at the Metavision Institute. This course not only provided the theoretical background I was looking for, but combined this with extensive experiential learning, and a welcome requirement for ongoing personal development.
The Metavision Institute offered training in Process oriented Psychology, also known as Processwork, which was developed by Arnold Mindell. This approach draws on ancient wisdom, following the flow of life. It acknowledges our inherent ability to heal, and is grounded in the work of Freud and Jung.
Working from an holistic approach, integrating body, soul and spirit, a psychotherapist sees a symptom not as something to be removed, but as a message, or sign to be followed, allowing individuals to find their own path towards healing.
The therapeutic experience can be likened to a spiral, a process of going deeply within, releasing old patterns and beliefs that may be holding you back, to emerge with greater levels of self awareness, understanding, and a new sense of freedom.
Psychotherapy allows us to develop a relationship with the inner life, the soul, observing how conscious and unconscious aspects interact in our daily life. I love the transformations this work has brought into my life, and the person it is enabling me to become, not only for myself, but also for the skills it has given me to help others to bring about the changes they are seeking to make in their lives.
I believe my experiences with holistic counselling and psychotherapy have offered me empowerment, the confidence to find out who I truly am, and the ability to live a more authentic life.
So, what is the difference between psychology and psychotherapy? Each has something to offer, depending on what you are looking for. Some practitioners will draw on aspects of both modalities, as well as counselling skills and other forms of healing.
This YouTube video prepared by Christina Nielson from the Metavision Institute offers a helpful comparison between psychology and psychotherapy.