Deciphering the Difference Between Counselor & Therapist in 2024

Difference Between Counselor & Therapist

Did you know that about 615 million people suffer from anxiety and depression, and around 1 in 4 people experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem? (Counselling Directory [APA], n.d.). Yes, you’ve also probably asked yourself, who do these struggling individuals with mental health concerns go to? The counselor or therapist? Or an even crucial question, what is the difference between a counselor or therapist?

No matter which term it goes by, a counselor or therapist seems to have many similarities, and the most common goal they have is to improve symptoms of many health conditions. But that’s not it. They still have huge differences and work in different aspects of a situation.

Again, ask yourself these questions before getting into further details. Why is it so important to know the differences between the two? Do I need therapy? When is the right time to go to therapy, and how will it benefit me?

What is Counseling?

From a technical standpoint, “counselor” means “adviser.” In other words, a trained person who guides you on your personal or psychological problems, helps you overcome your obstacles, and makes proper adjustments to your life.

Counselling usually consists of one-to-one short-term sessions, which typically last for an hour, once a week at a regular time and place.

However, it depends on the person and the counselor if you’d want to have more sessions or less. The thought of counseling might give you shivers, but trust me, you probably need it; you don’t know.

Counselors commonly focus on your current issues rather than digging into your past, except when certain information is required.

How Does Counseling Help?

Now let’s look at how counselors help and what their responsibilities are. Have you ever wondered if you could talk to someone without them specifically judging your life choices, your state of mind, and the way you do things?

Well then, here is where the counselors step in! The most important part of their job is listening to your problems without judging closely. Whether you’ve encountered issues with depression, the need to control damaging emotions and behavior, get over traumatic incidents, extreme levels of anguish with personal and professional relationships, drug abuse, or even get emotional support due to diseases, they’re right here for you.

Counselor’s Responsibilities Cover-

  • Be extremely polite, respectful, and compassionate while conversing with you.
  • Carefully listen to what you have to say; they might even jot down the important points about the conversation!
  • Asking questions to understand you and your issues better in-depth.
  • Outline your issues, clarify them and elaborate.
  • Observe your body language to see how you feel emotionally.
  • Help you see your problems from a different point of view.
  • Offer recommendations, feedback, or possible solutions and outcomes.
  • Creating a bond of trust.
  • Adjusting the way they communicate with people according to their style.
  • Coping up with certain situations and emotional stability of clients.

What Type of Counselor Should You Choose?

 You must choose a counselor specializing in the type of problems you face. The top common types of counselors and their work includes-

  • General Counselors- Implementing treatments and working with a vast range of people to help overcome their obstacles, mental health, abuse, and relationships with other people, including work.
  • Grief Counselors- Helping an individual overcome loss and positively influence their lives.
  • Mental Health counselors- Helping diagnosed and undiagnosed patients struggling with their mental health.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors- Helping patients psychologically and emotionally to help them cope with their disabilities.
  • Child Pediatric Counselors- Counseling children on their mental health, trauma, emotions, and stressful situations facing at home.
  • School counselors- Counseling and making things smoother for children and teenagers regarding their academic, private, and social lives. They also give an insight into career and adulthood development.
  • Marriage and Family Counselors- Guiding families and married couples to overcome a broad range of personal and cognitive issues.

Education Level and Salaries of Counselors:

Education level for all types of counselors Types of counselors Average Salary per year
  • Bachelor’s degree preferably includes English, psychology, liberal arts, science, business, human services, human behavior and environment, history, philosophy, statistics and research methods, studies on personalities, etc.
  • Earn a Juris Doctor from law school.
  • Master’s degree in your related field.
  • State board certification after passing the bar exam.
  • Get a license.
  • Internship.
General Counselors $170,501 (glassdoor, n.d)
Grief Counselors $54,982 (ZipRecruiter, n.d)
Mental Health Counselors $65,895 (, 2021)
Rehabilitation Counselors $65,895 (, 2021)
Child Pediatric Counselors $117,796 (ZipRecruiter, n.d)
School Counselors $59,877 (ZipRecruiter, n.d)
Marriage and Family Counselors $55,533 (glassdoor, n.d)
Note- Salary statistically depends on education level, level of experience, and the number of years worked for both counselors and therapists.

How Do You Know if a Counselor is Right for You?

Reasons why you may want to seek help-

  • You have certain fugitive/short-lived issues.
  • Hard time getting in grips with relationships, work, and things you used to enjoy.
  • Struggling to endure the loss of things like the demise of a loved one and relationship breakdown.
  • Coping up with alcohol, drug, or food addiction.
  • Seeking a new perspective.
  • Just to talk to someone who can guide you.

How Much Counseling Effective??

“In treating anxiety and depression, research shows that talk therapy is far better than no treatment at all.” (The Men’s Doc,2021). Creating a relationship with your counselor enables you to open up to your fears and trauma.

Being able to share and feel comfortable around them helps them understand you better, but you start acknowledging yourself. It seems to beat taking antidepressant medication and gives you an ultimatum from psychiatric services.

Counselors center around short-term solutions and don’t get involved in the complexity of the issues.

Therefore, within a few sessions, they tend to progress and develop solutions and individual procedures for their clients to control chapters of high distress.

Nevertheless, in some cases, the counselor might recognize that the issues you have been fighting with have been deep-rooted for a longer period which causes behavioral and emotional change. This is when the counselor will recommend therapy.

What is a therapist?

Let’s fall into the hands of a therapist. How are they any different from a counselor, you might ask? Therapists, or another term that we use (psychotherapists), are trained professionals who work more intensely on a patient than counselors.

Therapies are prolonged sessions with extensive research on a patient’s emotions, behaviors, personality, and frame of mind, which crucially impact a patient’s standard of life, relationships, and professional work. Unlike counseling, therapy sessions tend to last from several months to years, depending on your diagnosis and therapy goals.

Group Therapy Sessions

What’s interesting about therapy sessions is that your therapist might ask you to have one-on-one therapy sessions or sometimes group therapy sessions that could last an hour once a week or more, depending on your situation.

You wouldn’t even have to feel all nervous or complex about anything when you see others out there like you. Group therapy enables you to listen to other people’s stories; maybe you guys are going through the same things and better understand each other.

What’s even greater is that you won’t feel like you’re one in a million feeling all anxious and depressed. You’ll be receiving all the love, support, and inspiration from group therapy.

How Does Therapy Help?

Let’s get more into the details of what therapists can do for you –

  • They are inclined to dig deeper into the causes of your issues and expose the matters that trigger you the most to help you resolve them.
  • The sort of therapy you obtain depends on the nature of your issues and diagnosis.
  • The style of therapy you might receive depends on the therapist, and the psychological research found to suit you.
  • Shows you practical exercises and practices to help you face your challenges.
  • Reveal your unconscious mind that impacts thoughts, feelings, and characteristics.
  • Being interactive with you to develop alternative feedback to annihilate the problems your unconscious mind can cause.
  • Makes you aware of your thoughts and how they play a role in your life.
  • Opening up and learning new coping skills.

What Kind of Therapist Should I See?

 There are so many therapists around you, each with a different specialization, technique, and degree. Here are some you may need to know-

  • Psychotherapists- Incorporating and adapting therapeutic methods that best suit the client’s issues after investigating a wide range of problems.
  • Psychiatrists- Medical doctors emphasizing on diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders.
  • Psychoanalysts- Exploring a patient’s subconscious mind to recover forgotten or oppressed emotions to understand how their thoughts and personality drive them.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists (CBT)– Treating the patient’s pessimistic and unenthusiastic thoughts that cause them to behave in unstable ways.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapists (DBT)– Talking therapy that particularly works with patients suffering from a disturbed mind and emotional instability.
  • Psychologists– Understands and provides a detailed description of how a patient’s emotional mind is compatible with their behavior.

Education Level and Salaries of Therapists:

Education level for all types of therapists Types of therapists Average Salary per year
  • Bachelor’s degree in the same preferable subjects that you need to study to become a counselor.
  • Majoring in psychology during your undergraduate.
  • Master’s degree in your related field.
  • Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Psychology.
  • Doctoral degree.
  • Completion of supervised clinical work.
  • Complete Social work, therapy courses, and psychology programs.
  • State board certification after passing the bar exam.
  • Get a license.
  • Internship.
Psychotherapists $87,389 (ZipRecruiter, n.d)
Psychiatrists $177,520 [Z, Tanja. (n.d) hcsw: Psychiatrist salary]
Psychoanalysts $51, 826 (ZipRecruiter, n.d)
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists (CBT) $55,374 (ZipRecruiter, n.d)
Dialectical Behavior Therapists (DBT) $91,395 (ZipRecruiter, n.d)
Psychologists $87,389 (ZipRecruiter, n.d)
 Note- Salary statistically depends on education level, experience, and the number of years worked for counselors and therapists.

How Do You Know When to Visit a Therapist?

Reasons why you may want to seek help:-

  • You have issues that notably directly affect your life and relationships.
  • The Notion of a pretense life and personality.
  • Can’t figure out why you do, feel and think about things in a certain way.
  • Feeling strongly insecure, afraid, and anxious all time.
  • Detached from the world and feeling like there’s no one there for you.
  • Coping with trauma from the past plays a major role in your current issues.
  • You have an immedicable medical condition or disease that is hampering your stress level.
  • Diagnosed with mental health conditions that need immediate care and treatment.
  • You realize you need to change yourself to bring a huge change in your life.
  • When you’ve visited a counselor, your issues aren’t getting better even after having followed out sessions and practicing the procedures your counselor has given you.

Effectiveness in Therapy

The skills that therapy gives you help you understand how your mind works and self-apprehension. These, in return, changes help you explore yourself and shift your perspective on your personality, beliefs, and thoughts. Now the last question on your mind could be, is therapy effective?

According to the (American Psychological Association, 2012), research has proven that psychotherapy is extremely effective and helps to require the sting off of health services and medications.

“P. Cuijpers, pHD., from the Department of Psychotherapy in Amsterdam, conducted a meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies examining the consequences of psychological treatments on depression.” (Viewpoint Psychological Services, 2021). His studies on over 700 subjects proved that psychotherapy reduced depression traits and even crucial despondency. The best part is therapy sessions create long-term health improvements!

An Outlook on Therapy/Counseling Quality and Competence

Why is it of paramount importance for counselors or therapists to have scientific and experimental proficiency? The answer is very clear– every individual has a distinctive characteristic that requires several unique scientific methods that work best for the patient.

Your mental health will always come first. Therefore, therapists and counselors must deliver the finest achievable care and treatment. To do this, they must have excessive training on patient-focused and evidence-informed psychological treatments. They work on detailed and extensive research, which helps them discover the validity, efficiency, and effectiveness of psychological treatments.

However, there are a few points worth mentioning on how therapist/counseling quality and competence is evaluated:

  • Knowledge of the treatment.
  • How to apply certain strategies and procedures.
  • How to incorporate or combine other treatments with given strategy and procedures.
  • Coming across difficulties and how to address them.
  • When to truncate, lengthen or relinquish the treatment.
  • When to not apply certain strategies implemented to use on the patient.
  • Judgment, evaluation, and conclusion on patient outcomes and treatments.
  • Reliability on treatments, outcomes, and utilities used.

How to Find the Right Counselor or Therapist

Before preparing yourself and getting all hysterical about meeting your counselor or therapist, you might want to know where to find them. One of the principal matters before starting a session is to find the right type of counselor/therapist. Why is it important, you may ask?

Research has proven that the bond you share with your therapist influences your development. You cannot certainly progress with someone you dislike.

Counseling/therapy needs so much time, patience, and truthfulness. Your counselor/therapist should make you feel like you are connected to them so you can relate to matters. You shouldn’t be forced to contend with it or feel any obligation.

Your counselor/ therapist should be able to endure all your emotions and actions during therapy. You may be swearing, crying, throwing a fit, getting angry, or even jumping from one topic to another, but they should still be able to understand the reasons behind your actions. You will need to feel comfortable enough to be real and show the actual you!

Where to Find the Right Counselor or Therapist?

Some points to consider on how to find them:-

  • Know the type of counseling or therapy sessions you are looking for based on your needs.
  • Ask your provider directory who may have connections; if you plan on paying through your health insurance.
  • Look for the right location and availability that is convenient for you.
  • Every counselor/therapist charges differently; look for your payment options and how much you are willing to spend.
  • Search up mental health organizations’ up-to-date databases for licensed counselors/therapists.
  • Visit the top common pages for mental health associations online.
  • If you’ve chosen a few counselors/therapists, do extensive research on them and their expertise level.
  • Visit health organizations near your area to ask around.

How to Prepare Yourself to See Your Counselor or Therapist

You’d probably need a pen and paper for this as you’d want to remember what you want to talk about with your therapist –

  • Jot down your goals and explain what you want to achieve after your therapy sessions.
  • Write down your issues, diagnosis, and symptoms you want to overcome, even the things that are unrelated but you still want to talk about.
  • Take your prescription if you’ve been prescribed medication.
  • Carry your personal information and documents (if you have), which shows you’ve been to a therapist/counselor before but didn’t help.

Several factors are related to how effective therapy can be for you. Having a disappointing experience with your counselor/therapy might make it a bit difficult for you to want to try out therapy again. This is why it’s important to find the right one.

There are also reasons why therapy might not work for you, and that is if you don’t commit. If you start to doubt the therapeutic process and hold back on progressing further, it will be a loss for you. Do not feel ashamed, guilty, or have any sort of regrets during your sessions.

Sometimes therapy might not help you because you don’t feel a connection with your counselor/therapist, and the only way to fix that is to tell your therapist.

Otherwise, it’s a waste of your time, money, and effort. They might suggest other ways treatments or even recommend you to another therapist.


To cover it up in short, counselors work with mild to moderate issues, whereas therapists work with a wide range of problems and solutions. It depends on how much help you need to get. They both include private sessions, which are extremely confidential, so you wouldn’t have to worry about anything leaking out. The last thing to consider is if you expect instant results from therapy and counseling, then it’s not for you! Both of these take time and dedication for you to open up.

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