Counselor Vs. Therapist: What's The Difference?

As more people seek out mental health services, there can be some confusion surrounding which professional is best for your specific needs. While some may think that counselors and therapists do the same thing, they actually serve somewhat different purposes. The main similarities lie in the fact that both counselors and therapists help analyze mental health issues, but they differ in training, education, and treatment protocols, according to Healthline.

In order to officially present yourself as a psychotherapist, you need a specific license. However, not all counselors have the training or certifications to practice psychotherapy. Essentially, counselors don't fall under the same category as licensed mental health therapists who practice this type of psychoanalysis. It gets a little confusing when you get down to semantics because licensed psychologists can practice therapy and counseling. Counselors can also provide therapy and counseling, blurring the lines even more.

However, the certifications will tell you what you need to know. When researching mental health professionals, always seek out their official training and education. That way, you'll know what they specialize in and if they have the adequate tools to help you in specific areas of your life. For instance, counselors can aid in family issues, anxiety, grief, depression, addiction, behavioral issues, and more. Therapists can assist in the same areas but may offer different types of treatment.

Therapists and counselors can offer similar services with different treatments

While the education may differ, many mental health professionals are trained to do the same things. Counselors and therapists can both help you get to the root of your struggles and diagnose various issues, but their approaches and treatment plans can differ, Self explains. As far as degrees go, there are two categories you should be aware of. The two degree levels include a master's or a doctorate while the type of degree can either be for counseling or therapy, the outlet notes. In order to practice, your mental health professional will have had to pass your state's licensing board either way.

Practitioners with doctorate degrees are much harder to find since their coursework takes much longer, and they will cost you more money to see. On the other hand, master's level therapists are usually much more accessible and can help you with your day-to-day struggles just the same.

Counselors offer more pragmatic questioning and solutions

Self explains that counselors work with more pragmatic solutions that focus on tangible steps while therapists usually dive deeper into the underlying issues. "A client in session says, 'I think there are people outside the door listening to us.' A psychotherapist asks, 'Why do you think that? Do you feel this way often?' A counselor walks over and opens the door," licensed clinical psychologist Ryan Howes explains to the outlet. "In other words, therapists are more about helping you understand yourself and how you perceive the world, while a counselor finds pragmatic solutions."

While all of that can be extremely confusing, start by researching mental health professionals in your area and noting whether or not their specialties align with your needs. Depending on the level of support you need, select either a counselor or therapist that sounds aligned with your goals. Remember that you can always change directions if the person isn't for you — if it isn't a good fit, they often will help you find someone who is!