Traditionally, clinical psychologists are trained to offer psychotherapy, which simply means “healing (therapy) of the mind (psycho)”. It can broadly cover any forms of talk-based therapy and activity-based therapy, such as play, music or art therapy. Counseling can be considered psychotherapy, if it goes beyond advice giving or career exploration. Likewise, coaching may also be psychotherapy, if it goes beyond superficial instructions for self-improvement. The term “psychotherapy” presumes that there will be some level of depth and breadth in exploration of the persons, as in how they think, feel and act as human beings living within complex systems.

Psychotherapy can be structured in different formats, such as individual, couple, family, and group, according to its purpose and intention. So, someone who’s experiencing marital distress may see an individual therapist, who then refer him/her to a couple/family therapist, who may also ask to see the whole family, or invite the couple to join other couples in group couple therapy sessions. Lastly, psychotherapy can also be branded in fancy terms such as CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy), or DBT (dialectic behavioral therapy), or EFT (emotional-focused therapy), or hypnotherapy etc., which highlight their respective school of thoughts and how they help people change.

I frame my sessions as “psychological consultation” instead of “psychotherapy” for the following reasons:

  1. Consultation is traditionally used for “peers” or fellow professionals, whereas therapy is for the “patients” who are unwell and need external help. I’d like to see my clients as “experts” of themselves and hence, they are resourceful collaborators when we come together to consult a problem or issue that they need some help with.
  2. Therapy tends to be a long process, requiring the patient/client to commit to many sessions of treatment for their mental conditions (or illness, as some would call it). Likewise, people can also see their marriage or family as needing therapy because it was “broken” or “dysfunctional”. Whilst I do see some clients over many sessions, through many months and years, I try to help all my clients attain some sense of self-empowerment by excavating those hidden treasures or resources in themselves, and within their relationships with each other. Hence, my consultation can be a one-off session by itself, or with some follow-up sessions depending on the clients’ needs.
  3. Whether we call it psychotherapy or not, my consultation sessions can go as deep and as broad as my clients are ready for. As people go through different seasons of their lives, some of my clients would return after many years to consult a different set of issues. They feel safe with me because I look for what’s normal and functional; and I try to find alternative narratives beyond what people call their “illness” or “dysfunctions”.
  4. I believe that when people begin to see themselves and their difficulties differently, they can find new answers organically, from within. My role as their consultant is merely to hold space for them to pause and engage with themselves; and anytime they get stuck or discouraged, I offer just a little extra perspective or a gentle nudge to keep them going towards their own life goals.

Hope this clarifies a little and supports you to find the right help for yourself and/or your loved ones!

Published On: July 30th, 2020 / Categories: Psychologist / Tags: /