Counselling Psychology is a branch of applied psychology that focuses on a holistic understanding of psychological wellbeing, viewing each person as a unique individual with their own subjective experiences and meanings. This view provides an alternative to the more traditional medical model of psychological distress. Mental and emotional distress is not therefore viewed as ‘illness’ but as ‘difficulties in living’, understood relationally against the background of your life context.
Counselling psychologists are therefore specialist psychologists in the psychological therapies. A complete definition of counselling psychology in Scotland can be found here.
Counselling Psychology’s values stress the importance of the therapeutic relationship, collaboration and a focus on well-being and potential, rather than curing sickness or pathology and counselling psychologists competences are grounded in person-centred values that aim to empower those who use their services. It aims to prioritise wellbeing, anti-discriminatory practice, social and cultural context and ethical decision-making. It does indeed promote a more holistic view of the person, considering mental and emotional health in the context of the life cycle, environment and the relationships into which we are intertwined. The focus is the meaning of psychological distress rather than categorising distress as a psychopathology that lies within a person. In this way, psychological, social and relational aspects of problems are recognised and you are empowered to find social and personal solutions to psychological distress.
The title Counselling Psychologist is protected by The British Psychological Society (BPS) and the Health and Care Professional Council (HCPC) and anyone using this title must be fully qualified, registered with these professional bodies and adhere to their ethical and professional codes of practice.
Counselling psychologists view the therapeutic relationship that builds between the therapist and client as paramount and they bring themselves to this relationship. Because of this focus, counselling psychologists undertake their own personal therapy during training and beyond (40 hours of therapy are expected to be completed during training alone), and so have experience of being in a therapeutic relationship of their own and the self-awareness that grows from that.
We are trained in, and draw on, a range of psychological approaches in an integrative way, mindful that where each individual is unique, what works for one person may not work for another. It also means being able to work with aspects of the traditional medical model (such as diagnoses) but not allowing them to obscure the person or to provide an objectified view of a person’s problems. Counselling Psychologists therefore work with the individual’s unique psychological experience to empower recovery, improve psychological functioning and alleviate distress.