What Is The Difference Between A Mental Health Counselor And A Therapist?

While looking through mental health care services, you must have encountered terms like counselors and therapists. Have you ever given thought that there is any difference between a mental health counselor and a therapist?

In the blog post, we’ll unfold the differences between them for you.

difference between counselor and therapist

Who Is A Counselor?

A counselor is a professional educated in psychology, counseling, social work, or medical fields such as nursing. They often specialize in a particular issue, conduct patient evaluations, and provide resources to solve problems.

A licensed counselor can treat the following:

  1. Family or Relationship problems
  2. Behavioral problems or struggles with anger or low self-esteem
  3. Addiction or substance use
  4. Loss or grief
  5. Anxiety
  6. Depression
  7. School and career or work adjustment concerns
  8. Stress
  9. Adjusting to physical disabilities or diseases
  10. Identity issues

Who Is A Therapist?

A therapist refers to a professionally trained individual who provides treatment and rehabilitation to patients.

Qualified mental health professionals (doctorate level providers) or other master’s level providers can assist individuals dealing with:

  1. Grief/Loss
  2. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  3. Bipolar Disorder
  4. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
  5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  6. Relationship or Family Problems
  7. Personality Disorders
  8. Self-harm or Suicidal Thinking
  9. Substance Abuse
  10. And many other conditions

Counseling Vs Therapy

Professional counseling primarily focuses on your mental wellbeing. It pays attention to how people function and addresses their emotional, social, and other typical life stresses.

Counseling is best suited for the short-term and does not resolve long-term issues or deep-rooted trauma. It seeks to improve communication skills, promote behavior change, and build self-esteem.

Unlike counseling, therapy is a regulated practice.

It involves treating mental health and behavioral problems through communication and encompasses several therapeutic and skill-building activities to improve a patient’s mental health. 

This includes addressing issues related to managing stress, relationships, symptoms, and lifestyle.

As a practice, counseling is a short-term process.

It uses a certain problem-solving approach that addresses specific problems of a patient’s life in a very practical way. A counselor may use different tactics to approach, induce, and solve a patient’s issues and understand the patterns in the process.

Therapy is a long-term process and can last months and even years.

A therapist takes the help of talk therapy and other frameworks to go deep into the patient’s problems and seek the underlying root cause. It helps the patient understand the why and how behind the problem.

What Is The Difference Between A Mental Health Counselor And A Therapist?

‘Counselors’ and ‘therapists’ are often used interchangeably.

They are umbrella terms and often refer to mental health professionals who offer counseling or therapy. ​​While their services may overlap, there are specific differences, and each type of mental health professional specializes in different treatments. As careers, counselors and therapists hold different education requirements, licensure standards, and average salaries.

1. Education

Counselors in the US usually require a bachelor’s degree. But some states license or certify addictions counselors with an associate’s degree/a combo of college credits, years of professional seminars, and years of working experience in the field.

Addictions and behavioral disorder counselors working in private practice have to be licensed. Therefore, they must have a master’s degree. Some mental health counselors may also earn master’s degrees to gain licensure.

After earning a four-year bachelor’s degree, each aspiring professional must complete a 2-3 year master’s and perform supervised clinical work to become a therapist.

2. Skill Sets

Both professions require excellent communication, listening, and interpersonal skills.

Counselors usually work with individuals or groups and draw from various experiences to connect with patients.

For connecting with clients, therapists go through training. They choose a field of expertise, such as marriage or family therapy, and guide clients to help them overcome personal issues.

3. Patient Care

Counseling is a broad field. Counselors guide their clients through problems and approach patients with varying methods.

Therapists often need licenses to practice, so they only see patients that fall under their area of expertise. Many therapists use a specific theoretical orientation to guide their practice. This orientation allows clients to take their negative thoughts and replace them with positivity.

4. Requirements And Certifications

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), certain certifications exist for counselors and therapists.

Counselors may or may not require licenses; many professionals complete a bachelor’s degree and gain supervised experience to meet state licensing or certifying agency requirements.

A therapist must obtain a master’s degree in a specific field, which dictates which license and certification the therapist pursues. They also need to complete supervised experience through internships or residencies.

5. Average Salary

The average Counselor salary in the United States is $76,702, but the salary range typically falls between $69,360 and $86,831.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, therapist salaries range widely – from $30,000 to $100,000, this varies accordingly for educational, vocational, and school counselors.

We are sure that it is clear – what is the difference between a mental health counselor and a therapist. 


The terms therapist, counselor, etc., can often be used in place of one another, but don’t feel worried. It is easy to find a treatment provider. You just have to realize when you’ve found the right one.

Do consider the following in a potential provider: 

  • Education
  • Licensure
  • Experience

Once you choose a provider, give yourself time! Try them out. Go for a few sessions.

You should ask questions like, “Do you have experience in dealing with these types of issues?” and “What type of approach would you use for this situation?”

Always remember that choosing any therapist or counselor is completely personal. It is crucial that you feel a sense of trust in the person who helps you.

For more information on mental health, you can visit our website. Don’t hesitate! Reach out to us if you need help. Drop your queries in the comment box!

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