What is the Difference Between a Counselor and a Therapist?

Learn about what sets counselors & therapists apart & how their titles & qualifications affect their practice.

What is the Difference Between a Counselor and a Therapist?

There's the legal counsel for when you need legal advice, and then there's the therapist or counselor you can go to for psychological counseling or any other problem related to your life and mental well-being. People often confuse the counselor with the counselor, but only a counselor provides professional advice, including online counseling, in the counseling profession. The first time I set out to find a therapist, I was completely overwhelmed when my search on Psychology Today revealed a long list of names, titles, and titles. What's the difference between, say, a doctorate? In a therapeutic environment? Are therapy and counseling the same thing? How do you choose? Does it matter? After interviews with several psychotherapists and counselors, I can confidently say: “GOOD QUESTIONS. For a lot of people, certain titles aren't crucial enough to make or break the decision when it comes to choosing a personal therapist (or a counselor, we will, I promise).

In general, many mental health professionals are trained to do many of the same things, such as diagnosing and treating mental disorders and helping you sort out all your nonsense. However, depending on their title, some of these professionals have received more years of training, have specialized in certain areas or have focused their practices on different therapeutic approaches. With that in mind, let's get started. Most master's degrees in the field of mental health take two to three years to complete, and combine learning and practical experience. On average, people with master's licenses have between 2000 and 4,000 hours (or 2 to 3 years, approximately the equivalent) of supervised clinical experience under their belt, according to data from the American Counseling Association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the Association of Social Work Boards. On the other hand, most doctorates in the field of mental health take five to seven years to complete, according to the APA.

These programs focus on advanced courses while participating in clinical practices (supervised practical studies, such as following licensed professionals), internships or residencies (which are slightly more practical), in addition to completing a thorough examination of a thesis, dissertation, research project, or specialized work, depending on the program. Therefore, the length of the program is a clear difference between a master's degree and a doctorate. In turn, the length of the program can influence the depth and scope of a doctor's specialty. Someone with a doctorate simply has more time to learn about the various treatment modalities or delve into which they would most like to practice. On the other hand, doctors with a master's level tend to be much more accessible.

There are some parts of the country, such as rural areas, where there is a shortage of doctors with doctorates, D and Psy Ds and in general there are many more master's degrees available. In many ways, everything is semantic. Some people with counseling degrees call themselves therapists; others use the terms interchangeably; and to make matters even more complicated many mental health professionals have multiple degrees. In fact, the only degree that is regulated meaning that someone cannot legally use it unless they have the proper education and license is “psychologist”.We'll talk about this in more detail below but basically you need a doctorate. On the other hand any mental health professional can call themselves a therapist counselor or clinician.

Basically you can call it whatever you want because a lot of mental health professionals do. These are the most common professionals you're likely to run into when looking for an individual therapist. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. So if we think about those four quadrants Dr. As has been stated clinical psychologists are in the quadrant of doctoral-level doctors with degrees in therapy (in this case in clinical psychology). In other words they are providing a complete set of theoretical tools to help you solve your things. If you're thinking of counseling psychologists (the professionals who are part of the cross-section of doctoral-level doctors and counseling degrees) you're not likely to find one when looking for an individual therapist.

They tend to end up working in the field of school counseling or other community settings according to Dr. Howes. He says that the letters L C S W tend to fall more on the “counseling side” since they focus especially on problem solving. For example if you're going to therapy because you're exhausted from caring for an older parent an L C S W can help you find available adult services or if you're going through a financial crisis they can help you enroll in a food stamp program. For the same reason they may be especially adept at exploring social and environmental factors that may affect their well-being such as systems of oppression such as racism classism and sexism. And if you're wondering “Why are they called marriage and family therapists when I've heard that they're always called marriage counseling?” Well once again my friends this is a phenomenal example of how NOTHING MAKES SENSE AND WORDS DON'T MATTER. Find more information about our Guide to Caring for Your Mental Health here. SELF does not provide medical advice diagnoses or treatments.

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