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Psychology and Psychotherapy

By: Roger Cook - Updated: 13 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Psychology Psychotherapy Mental Health

Particularly within the NHS, it is common for psychologists (of all types) to work with other mental health professionals including nurses, psychiatrists and psychotherapists.

This set of articles explores the differences between those disciplines and psychologists.

Psychotherapy And Psychology

In some cases, psychotherapy can be seen to be a therapeutic model adopted by some psychologists – its emphasis on the avoidance of medical interventions making it attractive. The British Psychological Society (BPS) tends to take the view that psychotherapy is something that psychologists can opt to specialise in and use after they have completed their specific training.

However, as with other approaches to helping alleviate mental distress, the distinction is not that clear cut. In part this is down to the different models adopted by psychotherapists – some will be non judgemental and seek to listen but others will take quite a challenging approach. The goal of either approach, at the end of the day, is to allow you to understand your own motivation for your own actions.

With this in mind, you may wish to check that a particular individual is indeed a qualified psychotherapist and registers are held by the BPS, the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Aspects Of Psychotherapy

Although all psychotherapists have the basic goal of encouraging patients to talk through their difficulties, they do this using quite a range of therapeutic models.

For example, one who works from a systemic background will place considerable stress on family dynamics and may well wish to work with the whole family rather than just the person seeking help. Some elements within this discipline may place the emphasis on understanding power relationships in and around groups.

Integrative psychotherapy on the other hand, works from a model of the individual and sees it main function as “integrating” all the various parts of our personalities so that we deal with aspects that we tend to ignore or disown. The goal is to ensure that people engage with the world without preconditions and without the baggage of past rejections.

One further difficulty is at the moment, anyone can call themselves a psychotherapist which is a concern as some approaches can be deliberately challenging. Carried out without proper training this can be dangerous and the various regulatory bodies have been lobbying the government to ensure that no one can describe themselves as a psychotherapist without appropriate training.


Although psychotherapy is sometimes confused with counselling it is probably more accurate (and this is the preferred position of the BPS) to see it as one way that trained psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals might choose to interact with their clients.

For potential patients this is quite a complex situation, made all the more confusing by the variety of approaches that fall under the heading of psychotherapy. The different weight placed on family/social factors, on being supportive or challenging mean that an approach that is suitable for one person does not work for someone else. To address this, and in acknowledging that potential patients can be very vulnerable, the UKCP is lobbying for a clear set of definitions both as to who can work as a psychotherapist and what the various approaches involve.

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