What do these terms really mean? Here's my take. If I boil it way down...
I see counseling as more short-term work focused on specific current issues that want some attention. I see therapy as deeper and broader work that can involve an exploration of patterns of thought, behavior, or relationship to self and others.
However...I have been known to use them interchangeably and I don't think it really matters what we call it. I also think the the two are not discrete. I think therapeutic work works best if it can be flexible and willing to shift and move in an organic way.
If you like one term more than the other, use that one. If you don't like either, feel free to call it something else. What's important is not what we call it. What is important is that we establish a safe, supportive, and collaborative working relationship and that you feel clear about and comfortable with the expectations and boundaries of our work together. We will discuss this in detail in our first meeting.
In the first appointment, we will discuss what motivated you to come in at this time and what you hope to gain from the experience.
Session one is an introduction of you to me and me to you. We will establish some important expectations and agreements and begin to explore what our work together might look like. In this session, we are also exploring whether or not we think we will work well together. If either of us feels that it is not a good fit, I am happy to refer you to other practitioners in the Portland area.
Over the next few appointments, we will continue to assess whether we are a good fit for each other. Additionally, we will work closely to determine the methods, pace, and style that will best support you in your process and help you meet your goals. The therapeutic process is unique for every combination of client and practitioner.
If you would like to learn more and are not ready to commit to an appointment, I offer a free 30-minute consultation.
The short answer is that it's up to you. There is no set amount of time that you need to spend doing personal growth work. Some people engage in long-term therapy over months or years working towards understanding and unraveling long-held limiting patterns and healing from wounds that are old and deep. That can be an extremely rich and rewarding experience. However, there can be significant value in short-term work as well. Sometimes a few solution-focused counseling sessions are all that is needed to find clarity about a particular issue or current situation.
Rather than having to decide up front how long we will work together, we can begin our working relationship letting things unfold in the way they need to. Alternately, some people benefit from committing to engage with the therapeutic process for a period of time. Progress will be assessed collaboratively as we go, but is ultimately determined by you.
You will always be in control and can end the therapeutic relationship at any time.