Successful counselling or therapy relies on a therapeutic relationship (i.e. a helping, therapeutic or working alliance) between the professional and the client. This therapeutic alliance is a collaborative agreement to work together to achieve the same thing: the client's goals, so that the client feels some form of 'cure' or relief from the previous distress, such as feeling happier, more relaxed or more healthy.
A counsellor never gives advice like this:
- I'd leave him/her if I was you!
- I'll tell you what you need! ....
A therapist supports you to make your own decisions.
A psychologist will never make a moral decision about what you should do. Some people find this unusual, because they have come for some help, and it can seem that the professional does not want to give it. In a truly therapeutic relationship, you are encouraged to get to the conclusion yourself, so that you are not embarassed, shamed or humiliated by someone just telling you the answer.
A counsellor may sum up to check that they understand all you have been saying, and guide you to move on and form a plan of action.
A therapist might encourage you to examine how others have successfully dealt with common problems, and encourage you to think about the options you can come up with for yourself.