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What is the Difference Between Behaviour Therapy, Counselling and Psychology?

Emotional and wellbeing challenges vary widely. So too do the approaches that professionals use to help you resolve them.

When it comes to behaviour therapy, there are hundreds of forms of support used to relieve people’s distress when experiencing emotional and behaviour challenges. These forms of therapy are generally placed into overarching categories.

In this article, we explore the differences between three of these categories: behaviour therapy, counselling, and psychology.

Behaviour therapy

Behaviour therapists help reduce potentially self-destructive or unhealthy behaviours by supporting and expanding on a person’s capacity for positive behaviours.

This is often achieved through a process of comprehensively identifying all behaviours of concern; holistically building positive strategies that not only address the individual but their support network as well; and providing ongoing support to this network toward positive outcomes and a better quality of life.

Unlike counselling and psychology, which focus on thoughts to help people gain insight into the way they perceive an issue, behavioural therapy is action-based.

Behaviour therapists provide a wide range of support to all people, across their lifespan, and work with a range of concerns from mild to complex. For example, individuals may seek therapy support if they experience:

  • overwhelming negative emotions
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • stress
  • grief and loss
  • trauma
  • relationship problems
  • addiction
  • eating disorders
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • self-harm
  • other conditions that affect daily life.

In a behaviour therapy session, clients work toward goals and outcomes that reduce or eliminate behaviours of concern, build independence and capacity, and improve your overall quality of life.

Behaviour therapy can use a range of specialist approaches, depending on the goals being worked towards. Some of the most common therapy styles include:

  • Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • Family therapy
  • Play therapy.
Woman and child, play therapy, psychology, behaviour therapy


Counsellors are trained professionals who help individuals work through specific personal challenges.

It’s the interpersonal relationship with a counsellor that helps people develop a better understanding of themselves, their problems and that helps create positive change in their lives.

Counsellors focus on specific emotional and wellbeing challenges that have arisen either internally and/or due to external circumstances outside of the person’s control.

The goal of a counsellor is to help clients gain perspective around their thoughts and feelings. This perspective is then used to develop strategies that help them to explore, understand, and develop coping strategies for their interpersonal or personal concerns.

Counsellors and psychologists often work together to support clients. Both professionals may use a combination of counselling techniques as well as psychological principles.


Psychology can be incredibly varied and is generally used to address an individual’s challenges relating to a specific emotional or wellbeing concern or diagnosis.

Types of psychology reflect behaviour therapy in many ways, and include applied behaviour analysis (ABA), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT). The difference is that behaviour therapy takes an active, collaborative, and holistic approach to the client’s journey, whereas psychology is often more targeted and focused on singular or small groups of concerns.

Psychologists give people a space to explore any concerning thoughts or feelings with confidentiality, encourage them to see their situation from a different perspective, and help them develop strategies to cope with everyday challenges.

Woman speaking with elderly woman psychology counselling

Each person’s experience with therapy is different.

There may be some trial and error in the beginning to find the approach that suits the person best. Ultimately, individuals should be actively involved to get the best possible results from their therapy process; for example, by speaking openly and honestly, working through tasks, providing feedback, and asking questions.

Did you know the Butter Fish Services team develop personalised behaviour therapy plans to give individuals more choice, greater capacity and the ability to develop healthy, productive behaviours?

If you feel that behaviour therapy, counselling or psychology might be right for you, don’t hesitate to reach out. You don’t have to work through your challenges alone, especially when there will be times when new or added concerns rise up and confront you. That’s where Butter Fish Services come in.

Complete our online Referral Form or contact us on 1300 020 271 to start your journey today. 

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