Psychotherapy vs Counseling: How Are They Different?


Have you ever considered talking to a mental health professional? If so, then you know firsthand how overwhelming this decision can be.

Today, there are limitless options for talk therapy and counseling. Many of these options have moved online over the past year.

The ease of remote help has made these services even more accessible.

However, choosing between psychotherapy vs counseling remains a difficult decision. Both options can be helpful for a wide range of conditions. But therapists and counselors have different specialties and certifications.

Have you been struggling to decide between a therapist and a counselor? Then this is the right post for you!

This article will examine the different roles of a therapist and a counselor. Keep reading to find out more about which option might suit you best.

What Does a Therapist Do?

Therapists can provide help for a wide range of clients. These professionals help their clients explore the past and make positive changes in the present.

How to Become a Therapist

Becoming a licensed therapist requires a lot of education and training. Many therapists study psychology or social work in college.

After they graduate, therapists go to graduate school. Most therapists obtain a master’s degree before they can work with patients.

There are many different areas of study therapists can pursue. Therapists might choose to focus on child psychology, social work, or marriage therapy.

Conditions That Therapists Treat

Most therapists focus on treating long-term conditions over time with their patients. Therapists forge close relationships with their patients by identifying difficult feelings or triggers.

Some of the conditions that therapists often work with include: 

  • Anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, or other eating disorders
  • Long-term addiction to alcohol or other substances
  • Depression or other mood-related conditions
  • Anxiety disorders such as social anxiety or panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Phobias that interfere with daily living

Most therapists work with more serious conditions that take some time to treat. Because of this, therapists need to get the right license to practice in their home state.

The licensing process differs between regions and countries. Most therapists have to complete clinical work and take an exam to get their license.

When you’re investigating your therapist, it’s a good idea to check what license they have. You should be able to find this information on their website or through a quick web search.

The Role of a Counselor

Unlike a therapist, a counselor typically works with temporary situations or behavioral issues. Most counseling sessions last for several weeks or months.

Some counselors prefer to work with couples or families. Counselors can help these groups work together to build stronger relationships.

Other counselors offer group counseling sessions. These sessions might cover addiction, trauma recovery, or anger management. In a group setting, people can work together to take steps toward recovery.

Becoming a Counselor

Most counselors also need a graduate degree and a state license. But the degree program they pursue is specific for a counselor’s work.

Before pursuing a master’s program, counselors must complete a bachelor’s degree. However, counselors have a bit more freedom than therapists in their undergraduate studies.

Many counselors choose to study psychology or social work, but these are not necessary for pursuing a master’s degree.

Master’s programs focus on different counseling areas. Some of these programs even help counselors get state certification along the way.

What Can a Counselor Do For You?

Counselors work with a variety of situations or behavioral conditions. These issues do not need the long-term treatment of a licensed therapist.

Many counselors work for a larger institution. You might find a counselor in your local high school or physical rehab center.

Let’s take a look at some of the work counselors might do:

  • Provide art therapy at a school or hospital
  • Work with clients at an eating disorder clinic
  • Counsel individuals dealing with grief
  • Carry out clinical social work
  • Help a family through a difficult divorce

Counselors tend to be client-centered. They focus on the individual more than a given mental health condition.

Today, many counselors offer online sessions. This virtual format gives you the benefits of counseling from the comfort of your own home.

Psychotherapy vs Counseling

Now that you’ve learned a bit more about therapists and counselors, you might be wondering which option is right for you.

A therapist is a good option if you are struggling with a serious mental illness. Chronic mental health conditions can make it hard to deal with daily life.

Are you struggling to cope with everyday activities? Are you finding it hard to stop thinking about trauma in your past?

If this sounds like you, then you might benefit from working with a therapist.

A counselor is there to help you through temporary setbacks or life events. Counseling can give you the tools you need to reduce stress. Your counselor can also help you develop ways to cope with your situation.

Are you going through a tough career change? Have you recently lost a loved one? Or are you going through a difficult divorce?

If these questions sound familiar, a counselor might be just the thing.

Moving Forward on Your Wellness Journey

We all need help at some point in our lives. No matter what you’re going through, Southern California Sunrise Recovery Center is here for you.

Our dedicated team of experts is committed to meeting each client’s unique needs.

If you’re trying to decide on psychotherapy vs counseling, get in touch. Our committed and friendly staff will walk you through everything you need to know.

We can’t wait to support you on your wellness journey!

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