What is psychotherapy?

Written by Andrea Guerini

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is the term that refers to the interpersonal relationship between a therapist and a client. This interaction is co-created through the process of deep listening and empathic exploration of the client’s experiences. Through psychotherapy, clients may become aware of repeated patterns and ways of relating, and develop further insights, abilities, understandings and ways of being in the world. Not everybody who seeks psychotherapy suffers from a mental health issue, in fact many people choose to see a therapist for the sole purpose of knowing themselves better! The most common way of doing psychotherapy is talking, but it is not the only one. Other approaches such as group work, art, music, dance, body work, and drama can be also benefit clients (Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia, 2013).  There are different types of therapists who practice psychotherapy.

What is the difference between the types of therapists we have at BodyMatters? 


Training to become a psychotherapist requires an extensive evidence-based theoretical and experiential training in one or more psychotherapeutic modalities. Psychotherapists typically engage in the process of their own psychotherapy with a professional psychotherapist to ensure an adequate level of training, experience, and integration of theoretical concepts into practice. Registered psychotherapists are also required to have completed a diploma, undergraduate or post-graduate  degree qualification in psychotherapy. A psychotherapist’s goal is to develop a therapeutic relationship with their client with the purpose of assisting them in their healing, growth or transformation of emotional, physical, relationship, existential and behavioural issues. This is often longer term work, which psychotherapists are trained to provide. Counsellors and psychologists may become psychotherapists themselves with appropriate training. Psychotherapy in Australia is a self-regulated profession. (Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia, 2013; Inner Actions, 2018).


Training to become a psychologist requires a four year undergraduate degree in psychology plus an additional two years of training taking place through either a specific university course or an AHPRA approved placement, or a combination of these. Psychologists can engage in a wide variety of practices, such as psychological assessments, diagnosis, research, forensic psychology, health psychology, educational and developmental psychology, and others. Psychologists are most widely known for their work in assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. Psychologists are also known for applying “evidence based treatment”, using specific skill based interventions to support clients experiencing particular problems. However, Psychologists can decide to work solely as psychotherapists. Clients can benefit from Medicare when referred by a medical practitioner. Psychology in Australia is regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency (Psychology Board of Australia, 2019; The Australian Clinical Psychology Association, 2019). There are different types of Psychologists at BodyMatters:

  • Registered Psychologist: who have undertaken the final two years of training via any of pathways mentioned above
  • Clinical Psychologist: who have undertaken the final two years of training via a Masters of Clinical Psychology
  • Health Psychologist: who have undertaken the final two years of training via a Masters of Health Psychology


BodyMatters does not currently employ any Counsellors, however we are often asked what the difference between this and other helping professions is. Training to become a counsellor varies from short courses to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Depending on their level of training and experience, counsellors may work as psychotherapists. However, counsellors usually focus on short-term treatment for specific life events, for example grief, domestic violence or substance abuse. Usually counsellors work in collaboration with other professionals such as GPs, mental health clinicians, social workers, and non-government organisations. Counselling in Australia is a self-regulated profession. (Australian Counselling Association, 2016; Inner Actions, 2018).

What does this all mean for me?

All therapists at BodyMatters, whether they are psychologists or psychotherapists, use psychotherapy as the main treatment for disordered eating and/or body shame.  The majority of our therapists are either registered psychologists or clinical psychologists, therefore most are able to offer rebates under Medicare. 


Australian Counselling Association. (2016). Scope of Practice for Registered Counsellors. Retrieved from https://www.theaca.net.au/documents/ACA%20Scope%20of%20Practice%20for%20Registered%20Counsellors%202016.pdf

Inner Actions (2018). What’s the Difference? Retrieved from https://www.inneractions.com.au/res_whatsthedifference.php

Psychology Board of Australia. (2019). Registration Standards. Retrieved from https://www.psychologyboard.gov.au/Standards-and-Guidelines/Registration-Standards.aspx

Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia. (2013). Interim Definition of Psychotherapy for PACFA. Retrieved from https://www.pacfa.org.au/definition-of-psychotherapy/

The Australian Clinical Psychology Association. (2019). What is a Clinical Psychologist? Retrieved from https://acpa.org.au/what-is-a-clinical-psychologist/

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