What is the difference between counseling and therapy?

The terms "counseling" and "therapy" have different meanings, but are often used to describe the same activity. Both counseling and therapy involve talking with a trained professional -- many are also licensed by the state in which they work.

Counseling is the process by which a counselor helps an individual understand and solve problems to help him or her cope with mental or emotional stressors. For example, counseling generally works to find solutions to specific immediate problems such as learning how to positively communicate in relationships with others.

Therapy usually involves talking about your situation in order to gain more understanding about issues such as mood, feelings, behavior, and ways of thinking. For example, therapy can help you learn how to find meaning in your cancer experience.
Marchell Coleman
Mental Health
Counseling services can range from short-term solution focus treatment, clients with a specific problem such as improving relationships, stress related issues or lifestyle changes. In some instances clients who seek out counseling services are proactive with an awareness of their presenting concerns.
Therapy may consist of all the components of counseling with some additional services, such as the duration and pace of services. The therapeutic process helps the client to find the root causes of emotional and behavioral patterns. It is important to recognize that counseling and therapy services may overlap in some areas. Therefore, it is suggested to identify the professional that list the presenting issue you want to resolve; both counselors and therapist are trained to evaluate your needs and provide you with the appropriate recommendations for treatment.

Continue Learning about Mental Health

Guilt-Free Ways to Say No
Guilt-Free Ways to Say No
Photo Credit: Martin Howard, via Flickr Creative Commons “Crazy busy” has become the new hip designation for those with packed schedules and over-ext...
Read More
Do my child's breathing problems increase the risk of a mental disorder?
World Federation For Mental Health (WFMH)World Federation For Mental Health (WFMH)
There has been increasing interest in the relationship between respiratory disease and anxiety and d...
More Answers
4 Simple Ways to Avoid Feeling Lonely
4 Simple Ways to Avoid Feeling Lonely4 Simple Ways to Avoid Feeling Lonely4 Simple Ways to Avoid Feeling Lonely4 Simple Ways to Avoid Feeling Lonely
Loneliness and isolation can have serious health effects—but being proactive goes a long way.
Start Slideshow
How Can I Avoid Negative Thoughts?
How Can I Avoid Negative Thoughts?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.