Individual Counseling

50min-1hr one on one sessions with a counselor, psychotherapist or coach.

People often ask what the difference is among these three titles or styles of working? Sarah Breidenbach, director at FOCUS PEC, offers her understanding and discernment between them. Please note this is one person’s loose way of describing the differences and is by no means comprehensive or a formal definition.

Counselor

This is a very general title, so it is important to understand what type of counseling your counselor was trained in and/or prefers specifically. Many counselors are eclectic, pulling from a few areas in which they’ve been trained.

You can expect to meet with someone who is warm and empathetic, a good listener, and offers a sense of feeling less alone with whatever it is you’re wishing to speak about. Counseling will ask some questions about your life history, childhood, and family, but will not emphasize or stay in the past unless that is the wish of the client.

Counseling is usually client-centered, which means the purpose of the process is to elicit from the client, their own truth and opinions and solutions. The answers do not come from the counselor.

Because counseling is relationship based, developing rapport and trust over time is important. For this reason, the sessions may take a relatively slow pace starting with a lot of talking, gaining insight, perspective taking and in some cases problem solving.

The purpose of the process is to elicit from the client, their own truth and opinions and solutions

People often ask what the difference is among these three titles or styles of working? Sarah Breidenbach, director at FOCUS PEC, offers her understanding and discernment between them. Please note this is one person’s loose way of describing the differences and is by no means comprehensive or a formal definition.

Counselor

This is a very general title, so it is important to understand what type of counseling your counselor was trained in and/or prefers specifically. Many counselors are eclectic, pulling from a few areas in which they’ve been trained.

You can expect to meet with someone who is warm and empathetic, a good listener, and offers a sense of feeling less alone with whatever it is you’re wishing to speak about. Counseling will ask some questions about your life history, childhood, and family, but will not emphasize or stay in the past unless that is the wish of the client.

Counseling is usually client-centered, which means the purpose of the process is to elicit from the client, their own truth and opinions and solutions. The answers do not come from the counselor.

Because counseling is relationship based, developing rapport and trust over time is important. For this reason, the sessions may take a relatively slow pace starting with a lot of talking, gaining insight, perspective taking and in some cases problem solving.

The purpose of the process is to elicit from the client, their own truth and opinions and solutions

Psychotherapist

The main difference I would make between psychotherapy and counseling in my practice is the emphasis on life history and childhood. Though counseling may also include an understanding of family systems and the origins of your core issues, psychotherapy differs in that it may target areas that still need attention.

Psychotherapy includes an understanding of the nervous system preferences for coping with overwhelm and how to best support the body and emotion through ups and downs. This therapy may also use attachment theory to understand relationships and will include a trauma informed perspective.

For these reasons, the sessions may include modalities like EMDR (see What We Do) and what is sometimes referred to “deeper” or “somatic” work.

Again, like counseling, psychotherapy is still relationship based, meaning that in order to look into deeper areas of life or difficult memory content, it is very important that the client feels a great deal of safety and trust with the therapist.

Trauma resolution therapies do not depend on the right modality, their success depends largely on the relationship you have with the therapist. Because psychotherapy is likely to move into more complex layers of a person’s life, it is best suited for a longer therapy process, usually a minimum of 12 sessions.

It is also important that this therapy has some periods of regular appointment frequency such as weekly or bi-weekly.

Coach

The movement of coaching as a way to address life changes and mental health has really allowed a lot more people to feel comfortable seeking support without the historic stigmas attached to it. In other words, one does not need to be “mentally ill” to benefit from coaching. (Please note, this is a common belief, not one held by our team. In fact, we believe any human being could benefit from any of the services we provide.)

Coaching is quite different from the styles above in that it emphasizes the present moment and future. These sessions may involve worksheets or writing exercises that involve identifying your values and future vision.

Coaches will also be very directive and will be quicker to share an opinion on what they believe to be right or wrong. Coaching can be great for habit changing and goal completion as well as development in specific areas of life such as professional identity and ambition or personal life fulfillment.

Coaching is more likely to be bi-weekly or bi-monthly in its nature with the possibility of more brief check in along the way. Usually clients will commit to coaching for a minimum of 3-4 months at a time.

Please note: you do not need to know which type of 1-1 sessions you will want before scheduling your first appointment. This is something that can be discussed during that session and determined by the end of the 1st or 2nd session. It can also be something that changes or develops over time depending on the flexibility of the therapist.

Also note: The team at FOCUS may use a combination of modalities, and we provide more information on those below.

I was a totally different person when I began this journey with Sarah. I was so lucky to meet a therapist who would lead with love. She follows the lead of your emotions as they come up, is so sensitive in the way she leads you to discover more of yourself. I never once felt pushed or forced to see things a certain way if I didn’t feel ready. I lacked self love and was so very hard on myself. My greatest take away since meeting her is that I have learned to walk with my inner critic and be soft with myself.

- Natalie -

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