What's the Difference Between a Counselor and a Therapist?

Counseling & therapy are two common types of mental health care professionals. Learn about the differences between them & how they can help.

What's the Difference Between a Counselor and a Therapist?

When it comes to mental health care, there are many different professionals who can provide support and guidance. Counselors and therapists are two of the most common types of professionals in this field, but what is the difference between them?Counselors and therapists both provide support to individuals, couples, and families. However, there are some key differences between the two. Counselors typically offer short-term care, while therapists typically offer long-term care.

Therapists can focus more on the past and counselors more on the future. Counselors usually have a set number of sessions and therapists usually work on an ongoing basis. Therapists are more likely to treat mental health conditions. Another common job title within mental health counseling is that of psychologist. While therapists and counselors may be considered more similar than different, the difference is more pronounced for psychologists.

Counselors often offer advice and advice, while therapists often perform psychotherapy. Again, this is heavily influenced by state laws on licensing and scope of practice. Therapy takes place over a longer period and tends to focus on more complex issues, while counseling tends to take place in the short term and tends to address a more focused topic. Generally speaking, counseling tends to focus on a specific topic and is considered a short-term treatment. You can learn coping techniques and solve the problem together.

Psychotherapy tends to treat a wider range of problems and more complex issues. It can be a long-term treatment. Generally speaking, psychologists have more in common with therapists and counselors than they do with psychiatrists. Because counseling is a broad field, how counselors approach patient care varies widely, although counselors typically remain within their fields of expertise. At any school level, there are different programs that focus on certain specialties: psychology, counseling, social work, addictions and substance abuse, and marriage and family therapy, to name a few, but technically all are based on therapy or counseling. While some counselors don't obtain a license, many professionals obtain a bachelor's degree and supervised experience to meet the requirements of state or national certification agencies.

Counselors work with students to develop career goals, identify potential problems that affect success in school, and help students develop new habits. Often, mental health counselors specialize in addressing a particular topic, such as substance abuse, sexual abuse, marriage and relationships, or family counseling, among others. Addiction and behavioral disorder counselors who work in private practice must be licensed and, therefore, must have a master's degree. For counselors, it's a master's degree in counseling accredited by CACREP, the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. For example, counselors may not need as much education as psychologists, and therapists may work with different patient populations than counselors.

Substance abuse counselors work in residential treatment centers, outpatient treatment centers, and detention centers. Counselors and therapists share many similarities, and some professionals use the terms interchangeably. Many counselors require a bachelor's degree, although some counselor certifications may not even require an associate's degree. This common position for counselors is for professionals to work closely with people who suffer from drug addiction, mental health problems, or other behavioral problems. Without a doubt, you will meet counselors who will ask you questions about your past and psychotherapists who will help you solve your day-to-day problems. Like counselors, therapists tend to specialize in addressing particular client problems such as marital and family problems or substance abuse. The search for the right professional may involve narrowing down potential therapists or counselors according to their qualifications but it may also not be necessary depending on your needs.