What is psychotherapy?

How is it different to psychology and psychiatry? In this brief blog, Paul Wolstenholme, Director of Pathlight Ltd and psychotherapist in training, offers a response to this common question… and shares why he loves psychotherapy.

As a psychotherapist in training, I am often asked, “What’s the difference between a psychotherapist, a psychologist and a psychiatrist?”  I’ve also encountered wary looks when people have mistakenly assumed I can read their minds!

In a humble attempt to clear up some confusion, I offer this summary of my understanding of psychotherapy, psychology and psychiatry…


Psychology is the science of of mind and behaviour.

  • Psychologists study people: how they think, behave and interact.
  • Psychology is concerned with all aspects of behaviour and the thoughts, feelings and motivation that drive those behaviours.
  • Psychology is primarily concerned with the normal functioning and development of the mind.
  • Psychologists can specialise in areas including mental health or educational, occupational, clinical and forensic psychology.


Psychiatry is concerned with the clinical science of mental health disorders.

  • Psychiatrists focus on the study, diagnosis, management and prevention and mental health disorders.
  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have qualified in psychiatry.
  • Psychiatrists can treat mental health issues related to mood, behaviour, cognition, and perception.


Psychotherapy is a form of talking therapy, which can be conducted with individuals, groups, couples and families.

Psychotherapists facilitate a safe space to develop clients’ understanding of themselves and how they relate to the world.  

The therapeutic process can include:

  • Supporting clients to explore and overcome issues with self-image, relationships, unhelpful behaviour patterns, stress and difficult emotions
  • Processing past traumas and healing emotional wounds
  • Bringing the client’s unconscious material into consciousness. (by exploring the client-therapist relationship or via creative work such as dreamwork and creative imagination)
  • Guiding clients back to their true soul nature
  • Empowering clients to develop and balance those qualities they are not manifesting, in order to fulfil their potential.
  • Psychotherapy is generally a longer-term process than counselling, with clients often attending for many months or years.  This enables an open, trusting relationship (‘therapeutic alliance’) to develop and the space to explore experiences in great depth.  
  • There are many different approaches in psychotherapy, including psychodynamic, humanistic and integrative modalities.

 Transpersonal Integrated Psychotherapy

I am currently in my penultimate year of a 5-year training in Transpersonal Integrative Psychotherapy.

  • Transpersonal means ‘beyond the person’, encompassing the spiritual aspects of life and ancient wisdom alongside modern psychological science.  
  • Integrative means that all of the therapeutic approaches have value and can be employed at appropriate times to support clients on their journey.


For me, psychotherapy is enlightening, empowering, inspiring and transformational.  I find my client work hugely rewarding and a humbling privilege.  

The Ancient Greek roots of the word psychotherapy can be translated as ‘attending to, caring for or serving the soul’, which really resonates with my experience and how I endeavour to be in the world.

You can contact Paul for further information and support here.