From a clinical perspective, counseling and therapy are entirely separate. However, the public generally sees the two professions as the same and uses each interchangeably.
For example, a couple seeks couples therapy from a licensed counselor, and their friend refers to the counselor as a therapist.
Below we’ll explain the nuanced differences between counselors and therapists.
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Counseling is generally meant for specific issues that will be solved in the short term. In contrast, therapy is a more long term practice that helps you understand yourself and your thought patterns and behaviors.
A husband and wife struggling in their marriage would visit a marriage counselor. The marriage counselor would educate them on ways to communicate their issues better and find out what’s causing the most stress between the couple.
The marriage counselor will provide goals and strategies for the couple to get back on track. Ideally, after a few months of seeing a marriage counselor, the couple is in a better place and no longer feels the need to continue.
or, if you struggle to manage stress and find it overwhelming when certain situations get heated.
You may seek a counselor to learn to manage this stress. and strategies you can put into alleviating it and eventually end it entirely.
In both of these examples, the counselor and the patient work together to overcome a specific problem.
Generally, counseling will be more practical, involving goal setting and coping strategies for when difficult situations arise.
You’ll notice various types of counselors specialize in a specific problem if it’s marriage counselors, grief counselors, substance abuse counselors, and so forth.
However, if a counselor notices underlying and more severe patterns, they may recommend you to a therapist instead.
A person who struggles with depression throughout their life would most likely see a therapist. The therapist would look at how the patient views themselves, their thoughts, behaviors, and the underlying patterns on why they think in the way they do.
Generally, there will be less practical steps such as goat setting and coping strategies, and the process will happen over a long term basis. It’s not uncommon for a therapist to be seeing a patient for years.
Therapy is designed for chronic issues that are difficult to solve or possibly unable to be solved, only alleviated.
Therapists will generally specialize in a type of therapy and will need to undergo more study and certifications to practice legally. Compared to counselors who might have a specialty such as marriage counseling, there isn’t a legal certification for marriage counseling specifically.
Similarities between counseling and therapy
It’s not uncommon for a clinician to be trained in counseling and therapy. Most therapists have the ability and can legally practice both therapy and counseling. Because the two do overlap; however, therapy is generally a more complex and arduous process.
Some key similarities are the following:
- A safe space for self healing and discussion. Creating a therapeutic and understanding relationship between a patient and a mental health practitioner.
- Understanding a person’s feelings, thoughts, and perspectives, to live a better life
- Affective for a wide variety of people no matter the age, demographic, or status.
If you enquire at any licensed practice and explain your situation, they’ll point you in the right direction for a therapist, counselor, or a clinician trained in both.
A specific problem such as overcoming the death of a loved one, a struggling marriage, or substance abuse will generally require counseling.
However, the counselor may then direct you to see a therapist if they believe more significant issues are at play.
What matters most isn’t if you see a counselor or therapist but that you, or someone you know, gets help.
If you’re located in the New York area and considering mental health services. Contact us at Counseling Long Island. We’ve got a team of highly trained counselors and therapists with years of experience treating various mental health issues.