What Is the Difference Between Counseling and Therapy?
When considering a therapist vs. a counselor, it’s essential to understand the similarities and key differences between the two services. Knowing what each service provides you as the patient will help you determine which is right for you. This guide will help you choose whether you will benefit more from a counselor or therapist.
What Is Counseling?
Counseling is a form of mental health care that uses guided conversations with a licensed counselor to help you find coping mechanisms for specific challenges. Counselors are expected to support you through specific parts of your life or changes in life stages or concerns. People often seek counseling services during transitions like retirement, career changes, marriage, or having children.
Counselors work to help you gain a better understanding of your personal life and find problem-solving techniques to use in troubling times in your life. Counseling may be done in many formats, such as family, one-on-one, couples, and group counseling.
Many counselors specialize in one or more areas of counseling, so you can find one with extensive experience in your concerns. The common specializations in counseling are as follows:
- Vocational counseling
- Rehabilitation counseling
- Educational counseling
- Substance abuse counseling
- Marriage counseling
- Relationship counseling
- Family counseling
What Is Therapy?
Therapy is a general term for mental health care that involves conversations with a licensed professional to learn more about yourself, your background, and your coping skills. Therapy is sometimes referred to as talk therapy or psychotherapy, and the terms can be used interchangeably. Therapy helps you work with your provider to understand deep emotional issues, identify your personal struggles, and make positive life changes that change your outlook and approach to everyday life.
Therapy is helpful in a wide variety of situations, including the following common issues:
- Relationship issues
- Life changes
- Trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Substance use disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Chronic pain
- Grief and loss
- Low self-esteem
In general, therapists cannot prescribe medications. Prescriptions are left to psychiatrists. However, there are exceptions to this rule, depending on your location. A psychologist in Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, and New Mexico can undergo additional training to prescribe medication.
Therapy can be done in a group, as a couple, family, or one-on-one. A variety of clinical mental health counselors and professionals can provide therapy as a service if they have been trained and licensed.
Any of the following professionals can provide therapy:
- Licensed therapist
- Licensed counselor
- Licensed social worker
- Licensed clinical psychologist
- Psychiatric nurse
What’s the Difference Between a Therapist and a Counselor?
Counseling tends to be a short-term service that focuses on a specific life change or struggles you’re facing. Therapy is a more general, long-term service where you work to better your outlook on life and coping mechanisms by understanding your thoughts and actions.
Some medical professionals believe that counseling and therapy are different services, while others refer to them interchangeably. However, the field agrees that therapists and counselors receive different training, even though their treatments may look similar.
Requirements for professional counselors include a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling, at least 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience (the amount is based on the state they’re located in) and passing a state exam to begin practicing. Counselor titles vary from one state to the next.
Depending on your location, licensed counselors may be referred to any of the following titles:
- Licensed professional counselor (LPC)
- Licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC)
- Licensed mental health counselor (LMHC)
Therapists receive a master’s or doctoral degree in a therapy-related field. Typical areas of study include social work, marriage and family therapy, and psychology. A therapist must also undergo supervised training and pass a state exam to get their license.
Therapists often earn one of the following titles:
- Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
- Licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT)
Should You Seek Counseling or Therapy?
Almost everyone can benefit from therapy. With the increase in online therapy, seeking treatment is easier than ever. When considering counseling vs. therapy, there isn’t a huge difference that will lead you to one over the other. In fact, you may notice that the services you look at use both terms interchangeably. Looking for a mental health professional with extensive experience working with your needs is most important.
If you’re looking for short-term treatment for a specific concern, it may be better to look for a counselor specializing in that concern. However, if you’re looking for a more general treatment that focuses on bettering your outlook on life, therapy can help. Whichever you choose, make sure you pick a licensed professional who is passionate about helping you through your mental health concerns.
There are many types of counselors available to handle specific mental illnesses through a particular type of therapy. For example, substance abuse counselors may use cognitive behavioral therapy to treat mental health conditions associated with substance abuse. This is why you should find a therapist or counselor with a counseling program tailored to your needs is essential.
Get Counseling with Shield Bearer
If you’re seeking behavioral health counseling in the Houston area, you need the best counseling service available. Shield Bearer Counseling Centers offers a wide range of counseling services and a team of highly qualified mental health professionals who specialize in various mental health concerns and life changes.
If you’re facing trauma, depression, life changes, or other concerns, our team is here to help walk you through challenges and find healthy, helpful coping mechanisms. Not only that, but we offer affordable treatment options for everyone, so don’t let the cost of counseling keep you from scheduling an appointment.
Shield Bearer has a strong reputation of trust, expertise, and dedication to our clients. We’re here for all Houston residents and want to ensure everyone can access compassionate and helpful mental health counseling. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with the top therapists in Houston. You’ll be glad you did.