Counseling vs. Therapy: Which is Better for Mental Health?

When it comes to mental health treatment options, it can be difficult to know which type of treatment is best for you. Learn more about the differences between counseling vs therapy.

Counseling vs. Therapy: Which is Better for Mental Health?

When it comes to mental health, it can be difficult to know which type of treatment is best for you. Counseling and therapy are two of the most common forms of treatment, but they are not the same. In general terms, counseling tends to focus on a specific topic and is considered a short-term treatment. You can learn coping techniques and solve the problem together.

Psychotherapy, on the other hand, tends to treat a wider range of problems and more complex issues. It can be a long-term treatment. Therapists work to help their patients address similar issues and often provide the same advice as counselors. However, a key difference is that therapists often seek to go deeper by helping the patient understand the how and why behind a challenge. For example, what situations tend to provoke an alcoholic desire and why? What situations are most likely to trigger a panic attack and why? What is the root of these problems? They seek to identify the source of these problems through a combination of psychotherapy and other frameworks. Although there is no career in therapy, counseling and therapy are considered interchangeable in a clinical sense.

In practice, both are collaborative processes between a client and a licensed mental health professional, such as a clinical mental health counselor, psychologist, or clinical social worker. Regardless of the strategies they employ, a counselor's intention is to help their clients address and change harmful behavior and thinking patterns to promote mental and emotional health. As a clinical mental health counselor, you'll have the opportunity to use therapeutic and counseling methods in your office. With the proper certification, clinical mental health counselors can work with individual clients, couples, families, or groups seeking treatment. Bradley MAC students can choose to specialize in clinical mental health counseling or professional school counseling.

If you're aiming for a career in mental health counseling, consider earning a counseling degree from Bradley University. A master's degree in counseling psychology is a frequently earned degree, and the most common licenses include licensed mental health counselors (LHMC) and licensed professional counselors (LPC). Clinical mental health counselors “help clients identify goals and possible solutions to problems that cause emotional disorders; seek to improve communication and coping skills; strengthen self-esteem; and promote behavioral change and optimal mental health” according to the American Counseling Association (ACA).Mental health counselors and therapists occupy the same professional space and treat the same issues within the same patient populations. Many choose to do so by joining a professional organization such as the American Association of Mental Health Counselors (AMHCA).

Often, mental health counselors specialize in addressing a particular topic, such as substance abuse, sexual abuse, marriage and relationships, or family counseling, among others. Therapy is considered a type of mental health practice when it is specifically performed by a professional counselor, clinical social worker, or psychologist. For example, a couple may seek marriage counseling from a licensed counselor and their child may refer to their mental health counselor as their therapist. Someone who aspires to provide therapeutic treatments and counseling services can pursue a career in counseling. While mental health professionals regularly apply therapeutic practices and counseling strategies, therapy and counseling differ in the professional sense.