Who To See: Psychologist or Psychotherapist?

The Question

Should I see a Psychologist or a Psychotherapist for personal or couple-related counselling and/or therapy?

Obviously, we’re biased, having undergone a rigorous Psychotherapy training! But we want you to be informed to decide what’s right for you and/or for you and your partner.

Differences in the Trainings

Psychologists have a rigorous university training in the theory and practice of psychology, from an academic standpoint. Psychology is seen as closer to science than art, and particular approaches to working with people are only accepted once they become “evidence based”, using rigorous clinical studies.

Psychotherapists, on the other hand, have tended in the past to receive a much more “hands on” training. In our Gestalt training, we were immersed in group work and interactive two person (dyad) work from the beginning. We learned to focus on the here-and-now experience of ourselves and our clients as we worked with them. Although there is a strong background in theory, in Gestalt our “evidence” is the results we see in our clients.

(These are broad generalisations, and not all practitioners fit neatly into these distinctions.)

The Pros and Cons

Unlike Psychologists and general practitioner doctors, we are not part of the Medicare system. There are pros and cons to this.

First, the cons:

  • You don’t get the Medicare rebate (which you do if you choose to see a Psychologist under a GP-referred Medical Health Treatment Plan).
  • You are unlikely to get a private Health Fund refund (although this is gradually changing, and Medibank Private is an exception).
  • You don’t get a record of your sessions kept in the Medicare system and possibly sent back to your referring GP.

However, there are strong pros to working with us:

  • As above, you don’t get a record of your sessions kept in the Medicare system and possibly sent back to your referring GP. It’s completely private. (We do keep our own records, but these are confidential to our practice.)
  • To us, you are clients rather than patients.
  • We have to be extremely effective to work outside the Medicare system.
  • We are specialists in couples counselling. We trained together. During our four year training, as well as our subsequent ten years of practice, we have lived and breathed the questions of how couples can build peaceful and vital relationships together.
  • We have a lot of life experience and are both in our second marriages. You are unlikely to get such experience from a newly-trained Psychologist.
  • We offer the (optional) powerful Co-Therapist Model of Couples Counselling model, which you cannot get in the Medicare system.
  • We offer online sessions.
  • Our standard session time is 60 minutes, rather than the 50 minutes (or even 45 minutes) offered by some psychologists. (For couples in particular, we sometimes recommend 90 minute sessions)

Trust Your Gut

Whoever you choose to see for couples work, we encourage you to trust your gut feel of the therapist or relationship counsellor you have chosen. Our view is that your relationship has its own wisdom too, and is attempting to take both of you somewhere new (whether that’s ultimately closer together or further apart).

Intimate relationships that really work are a great gift and are to be treasured. Don’t risk the “quick fix” approach when the well-being of both of you (and possibly, as well, your children) are at stake.