Psychologist specialising in Counselling & Psychotherapy

Linda Stephenson

MA (Psychological Counselling), BA(Hons), BSc(Psychology), MBPsS, UKCP Registered

Although terminology in this field is confusing as counselling and psychotherapy are similar endeavours and lie on a continuum, blurring the distinction (NICE, 2009: 8), a well-known definition of psychotherapy is that it is ‘….. an interpersonal process designed to bring about modifications of feelings, cognitions, attitudes and behaviour which have proved troublesome to the person seeking help from a trained professional’ (Strupp, 1978: 3).

The two major UK institutional bodies are both general in defining these terms with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy stating that ‘Counselling and Psychotherapy are umbrella terms that cover a range of talking therapies’ (BACP, 2012) and the UK Council for Psychotherapy suggesting ‘there is no commonly agreed definition’ but that ‘psychotherapists can work with a wider range of clients or patients and can offer more in-depth work’ (UKCP, 2012).

There are over 460 different types of therapy and we do know that, as a treatment for adult mental health issues, it is very effective. Of those who seek help via talking therapy, approximately 79% benefit regardless of the approach taken.

Professor Spinelli (1994: 19) writes that ‘it is not possible to make a generally accepted differentiation between counselling and psychotherapy and that it is clear that, regardless of the many varied distinctions that some have sought to impose on them, the terms may be employed interchangeably’. Therefore, Spinelli argues for the term ‘therapy’ to be used because it encompasses both psychotherapy and counselling (Spinelli, 1994: 19-20).

Existential-Phenomenological Therapy (EPT)

Although it is a fundamental premise of existential therapy that there is no one definitive way of working existentially (Spinelli, 2007a: 3) as this approach is incredibly diverse, all share the notion that ‘existence comes before essence’ (Sartre, 1948/1973: 26). The fact that we exist is the starting point, leading on to questions of how we exist where it is generally believed that ‘I create myself as I exist’ (van Deurzen in NSPC, 2012). The therapeutic relationship itself is key to facilitating change in ways which are unpredictable but taken to be a ‘given’ (Spinelli, 2007b).

The existential-phenomenological therapeutic approach is grounded in a descriptive exploration of what it means to exist as a human being capable of language and reflection which provides the capacity for freedom, responsibility and choice as to how one is to live one’s life.

"Seek not abroad, turn back into thyself, for in the inner man dwells the truth"

St Augustine (354-430 AD)