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Therapist vs Counsellor: What are the Differences?

Therapist vs Counsellor: You undoubtedly believe that “counselors” and “psychotherapists” are interchangeable, yet they couldn’t be further from the truth. The main distinctions between the two professions are listed below.

You must be familiar with the phrases “psychotherapist” (commonly abbreviated to “therapist“) and “counselor” if you intend to work in the field of psychology. But how do the two differ from one another? Are they the same thing? Will you pursue both occupations using the same course of study?

The truth is that these two domains function differently even though they both serve those in need on an emotional and psychological level. We highlight the key distinctions between a counsellor and a psychotherapist so you can have a better understanding.

Therapist vs Counsellor: The Differences

Organizations, government agencies, and individuals frequently use the terms “counselor” and “therapist” interchangeably, and there is continuous discussion in the profession about how and whether these titles may be formally defined and differentiated. Additionally, practitioners may choose to use one of the names over the other to characterize their practice or they may do so out of personal preference. It’s crucial to remember that neither of these methods is ineffective.

Both types of experts are ultimately there to assist individuals in resolving their mental health issues and promoting mental health recovery. However, there are some unique characteristics of counseling and therapy that might be thought of as differentiating the two.

Therapist vs Counsellor
Therapist vs Counsellor

The Real Difference between Counselling and Therapy:

When it comes right down to it, the main philosophical distinction between counselors and therapists exists.

  • Counselors – Mental health problems are viewed by counselors as a real-world issue that must be resolved for each client. They concentrate on finding solutions to problems and the specific problems that are stopping a patient from attaining their goals, and they search for simple solutions that address those problems head-on.
  • Therapists – Therapists take a social and relational issues-based approach to mental health difficulties. They perceive people as parts of a broader web, each of whose threads pulls on their mental health. To find the source of issues and concentrate on remedies from a holistic angle, they search through that network of links.


Although certain qualifications as counselors may not even require an associate’s degree, many counselors require a bachelor’s degree. For instance, some states need associate’s degrees, or a combination of college credits, professional training, and years of experience working with addictions, in order to license or certify addictions counselors. Counselors treating behavioral disorders and addictions in private practice are required to be licensed, which necessitates a master’s degree. To become licensed, mental health counselors must also complete a master’s degree.

Therapists should possess a master’s degree at the very least. Students at this level select a specialty area while finishing their master’s degrees. Each prospective professional must finish a 2-3 year master’s degree in addition to supervised clinical practice after receiving a four-year bachelor’s degree.

Every psychologist must hold a doctoral degree, and the majority of professionals complete a Ph.D., Ed.D., or Psy.D. in 3–4 years. A psychology bachelor’s degree, a psychology master’s degree, and some work experience are prerequisites for psychology doctoral degrees. This degree also calls for supervised clinical work, and before the student is qualified for licensing, most states need that they complete two years of clinical supervision.

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Certifications and Requirements

With very few exceptions, therapists and psychologists must all have licenses, whereas counselors may need one. Many professionals acquire a bachelor’s degree and supervised experience to meet state licensing or national certifying agency criteria, even though some counselors do not obtain licensure.

A therapist must get a master’s degree in a particular discipline, and the license and certification they pursue are determined by that field. Additionally, therapists complete internships or residencies to gain supervised experience.

Although most states won’t grant a psychologist license to anyone without a doctoral degree, a psychologist needs at least a master’s degree. The majority of jurisdictions require practitioners to be licensed before using the title “psychologist.” A psychologist can obtain advanced certification in addition to the 1-2 years of supervised experience required, and they often need to finish continuing education requirements to keep their licenses.

Skills Sets

Good interpersonal, communication, and listening skills are essential for counselors, therapists, and psychologists. Counselors can work with either individuals or in groups, and many of them draw on a range of experiences to relate to their clients.

The ability to interact with patients is taught to therapists. A therapist typically choose a specialty, such as family or marriage therapy, and works with clients to help them resolve personal concerns.

Strong analytical and observational skills are necessary for psychologists. These individuals carry out research, make diagnoses of illnesses, and manage interns. In contrast to psychologists, who can only do so in the states of Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, New Mexico, and Louisiana as well as in the Public Health Service, the Indian Health Service, the U.S. military, and Guam, psychiatrists get medical training and are able to prescribe medication. Psychologists typically work more closely with therapists and counselors than with psychiatrists.

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Strategies and Methods used in Therapy and Counseling

A specialist may be interested in any number of therapies and counseling methods. Counselors may acquire training in one or more of these more comprehensive techniques. Counseling is typically associated with larger counseling approaches. These methods consist of:

  • Getstalt
  • Bereavement counselling
  • Person-centred
  • Humanistic

On the other hand, therapy may be more frequently linked to particular psychological approaches, like:

  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT)
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT),
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT),

A therapist may have chosen to specialize in adopting a particular therapeutic approach (like CBT), in which case they would refer to themselves as a cognitive behavioral therapist.

Therapist vs Counsellor
Therapist vs Counsellor

What Conditions do Counseling and Therapy treat?

Treatment for documented mental health issues such depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) may involve therapy more frequently than counseling. This is due to the fact that therapy is evidence-based, formulation-driven, and frequently created particularly to treat particular mental diseases.

Counseling, on the other hand, might be used more frequently to treat various presenting problems that aren’t usually recognized as mental diseases. These could involve help for various concerns including low self-esteem as well as bereavement and grief counseling, marital counseling, developing coping mechanisms, etc. These problems might be seen as being connected to the general “ups and downs” of life, but it doesn’t make them any less important than official mental health disorders.

What will the focus of a therapy or counseling session be?

In counseling, you’re more likely to concentrate on the ‘now and now’ and identify strategies for managing your immediate problems and emotions. Typically, your counselor will evaluate how you’re feeling right now and how that’s influencing your wellbeing on a daily basis.

You’re more likely to examine the “back story” of your problems in therapy in addition to being conscious of the “here and now” in order to identify their underlying causes. By doing so, you’ll be able to challenge how you react to these feelings and move on while also being able to see how your past experiences may have influenced how you’re feeling.

What kind of Training is given to Therapists and Counselors?

It may be claimed that the majority of practitioners in the profession receive their initial training using a more comprehensive counseling method. They may then add further in-depth training to their skill set, such as CBT, DBT, or the other aforementioned approaches to psychotherapy. They might now start referring to themselves more as a therapist or psychotherapist.

A therapist may therefore have had more technique-specific training than a counsellor; nevertheless, this does not imply that they are more experienced than counsellors; rather, it just means that their expertise is more likely to be concentrated in a certain area or areas.

Therapist vs Counsellor
Therapist vs Counsellor

Frequently Asked Questions

Are counselor and therapist the same thing?

Both "counselor" and "therapist" are frequently used in the same sentence. Technically speaking, these two categories of professionals don't overlap. Standards for education, training, and certification determine the variances. In general, therapists and counselors assist patients in overcoming their mental health and life difficulties.

Who is a Therapist?

A therapist may be a counselor, psychologist, or other qualified healthcare provider for mental illness. A practitioner who is educated, skilled, and licensed to deliver talk therapy or psychotherapy is referred to as a "therapist" in general. They can evaluate, identify, and treat mental health conditions during therapy.

What is the name of a common type of therapy?

Psychotherapy, usually referred to as talk therapy, can support those who are experiencing emotional or mental health issues. It can reduce symptoms and improve daily functioning for those who use it. This type of therapy is frequently utilized in conjunction with drugs or other treatments.

Where are counselors employed?

You can work as a counselor in family services, outpatient mental health and drug addiction facilities, hospitals, the government, schools, and private practice, among other settings. You can decide to work with a particular group of people, such as youths, prisoners, families, or the elderly.


Your planned degree of schooling, ideal professional function, and financial objectives may influence your decision between a career as a counselor, therapist, or psychologist. More profitable positions are frequently the result of higher degrees of education. Counselors have the lowest median pay of the three jobs ($44,630), while psychologists have the highest ($79,010).

Counselors can work closely with a wide range of clients in a variety of situations. In a variety of circumstances, therapists occasionally collaborate with other therapists. Additionally, psychologists may operate in a variety of settings, such as integrated health systems or group practices. Additionally, a lot of psychologists and therapists start their own private practices.

The demand for mental health professionals rises as mental health becomes a more pressing issue. From 2018 to 28 there will be a substantially quicker than usual 22% increase in the number of jobs for counselors and therapists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to BLS data, the number of jobs for psychologists is expected to increase by 14% during that time.

Students who want to write prescriptions for medications and medication should train to be psychiatrists. Psychologists and psychiatrists have many things in common, yet they also differ greatly in several key ways. Whichever career you decide on, all three can lead to fulfilling careers that have a positive impact on people’s lives.



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