Therapeutic and Therapy – What’s the difference?

Hourglass, how long will it last?There is a fundamental truth to human behaviour in that there are essentially two explanations for why we do the things we do. According to Freud, all behaviour can be seen as either:

An attempt to move away from pain


An attempt to move towards pleasure

Ultimately we do not wish to experience pain (be it physical or emotional) for longer than we absolutely need to. Because of this it is no surprise that in the modern world there are so many varied resources available to us that label themselves either as Therapeutic or as some form of Therapy. For many, these two words are used interchangeably. “Surely” they say, “if something leaves you feeling better than before you did it, than it must be therapeutic… and vice versa”.

I believe however that there is an important distinction between the two words that I would like to take a moment to address.  There are a great many things in life that are experienced as therapeutic. We can have a massage, go for a run, eat a bar of chocolate or drink a cocktail (but not too many), take a nice long hot bath and a great many more. Each of these activities has therapeutic qualities in that usually, we feel better after engaging in them. Significantly however, the positive effects of these activities are somewhat short lived. Sure we feel more relaxed and loose after a long massage, but how long will this last…?

Until the drive home from our masseuse?

Until tomorrow when our employer has a rant in the middle of the office?

The point is that where something is therapeutic, it is inherently temporary. That is not to say that therapeutic mechanisms for changing the way we feel about and react to life are bad or that we shouldn’t take full advantage of them. What I am saying is that if you are finding yourself experiencing the same painful feelings over and over again, or if you repeatedly end up in situations that you think we should have seen coming based on past experience, then perhaps the short lived nature of a therapeutic activity is not what you need at this point.

By contrast, therapy (or counselling) is an activity that an individual engages in with the assistance of a confidential and qualified professional. In therapy, we look beyond what it takes to feel better for the next few hours and work to discover what it is that is causing the pain in the first place. Once this has been done, the change that occurs tends to be lasting change. This is not to say that someone who engages in therapy or counselling will never have painful feelings again, but that through counselling it is possible to leave behind some of those difficulties that keep popping back up, regardless of how many therapeutic activities you may have engaged in in order to get rid of them. Therapy may enable you to say goodbye to them forever. If you would like more information about how therapy or counselling might be of assistance in your situation, please feel free to call me on 01279 834467 for a no obligation conversation prior to booking an appointment.