FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
On this page I try to answer some of the most frequent questions clients ask, for example, what is the difference between psychotherapy, psychology and counselling in Geneva?
It can be very confusing as a potential client to make sense of all these terms.
All three disciplines – psychotherapy, psychology and counselling – offer forms of talk therapy.
Individual talk therapists can be differentiated by their levels of qualification (certificates, diplomas, masters, PhDs and so on), the length of time it took them to qualify (months to years), the level of experience they attained and their recognition from local and national authorities. Talk therapists are also differentiated by their theoretical orientation (e.g. psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, cognitive behavioural, person-centered etc.) and length of therapy offered (short vs long term therapy).
I offer these countries for comparison because all three represent jurisdictions in which I have either worked or trained, or both.
Here in Switzerland, these three forms of talk therapy (psychologist, psychotherapist and counsellor) range on a spectrum.
- Psychologists and psychotherapists have a Swiss-recognized undergraduate and postgraduate in Psychology (and further accreditation in psychotherapy for psychotherapists) and a number of years of work-based training and experience. Both are nationally protected titles which means that only practitioners who have been accredited by Swiss authorities (for example, FSP – La Fédération Suisses des Psychologues or FMH – Fédération des Médecins Suisses) may use these titles to describe their work.
- Counsellors are regulated by each canton and in order to use the title Counsellor or Relation d’aide, one must register with the local canton and demonstrate a certain level of training and experience.
In the USA:
- a psychologist tends to have more of a research background whilst licensed professional counsellors (or counselors as correctly spelt in American English) and social workers tend to train for direct clinical work. In the US, counsellors, social workers and psychologists are licensed by the state in which they are based and all can call the work they do “psychotherapy”. All have to follow a rigorous postgraduate qualification path, at the minimum with a Masters’ degree.
In the UK:
- counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists register with professional bodies and abide by the ethical standards of those professional bodies. There is a wide difference in the type of training available to become either a counsellor or psychotherapist, although traditionally psychotherapy was associated with more depth work whilst counselling was seen as a more short-term option. These artificial differences are widely no longer seen as valid in the profession. Whilst there has traditionally been a hierarchy between counsellors and psychotherapists, the British professional bodies are now working to replace this hierarchical structure with one that recognizes the length of practice and quality of qualification, rather than the title which one works under.
You will not be able to use Swiss health insurance (either LAMAL or complementary insurance) to get sessions with me reimbursed. If you have international health insurance, it is worth contacting them directly as some health insurance providers will cover counselling sessions. Unfortunately I am not able to advise on your individual situation as each international health insurance provider is different.
This is a great question and gets to the heart of what therapy is about.
All forms of talk therapy are about the relationship between the client and their therapist, whether that therapist carries the label psychotherapist, psychologist or counsellor. In fact, recent research shows that the type of therapy offered is less important that the quality of the connection between therapist and client.
What this means for you as someone looking for a therapist is that it is okay to meet with a therapist for one or two sessions and then decide that it is not a “good fit”. In fact, most good therapists would actively encourage their prospective clients to be curious and cast the net wide when choosing a therapist, and certainly not to settle for the first person you meet (unless the fit feels good).
That being said, you might also want to explore with a potential therapist:
- whether they offer short or long term therapy, and think together about what you are looking for;
- how regularly they would advise meeting, and whether that fits with your availability;
- what payment looks like, and whether health insurance would cover all or some of their services; and
- what type of therapy they offer (e.g. psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, person-centered, emotion-focused, trauma-informed, solution-focused etc.), and whether this would work with what you are hoping to work on.