You’re looking for a Counselor. And you have probably seen the words “counseling” and “therapy,” and their counterparts “counselor” and “therapist,” used often in confusing ways. You’ve seen ads for “couples therapy,” “marriage counseling”, websites for “couples counselors,” commercials for “mental health counseling” and videos about “psychotherapy.” But what do these words mean? Should you be looking for someone who calls him or herself a “therapist” and ignore all the “counselors?” Are they all the same thing?
Therapy is the treatment of disease or disorders, as by some remedial, rehabilitating, or curative process. Counseling is the professional guidance in resolving personal conflicts and emotional problems.
Therapy is applying a process to treat a problem, soothe pain, repair damage and the like. Counseling technically means providing guidance and advice. “…good counsel is, itself, therapeutic.” However, mental health counselors avoid simply giving advice like you would expect lawyers and physicians to do. They prefer to counsel in a more collaborative way. The words become interchangeable because mental health therapists/counselors do both things. They use counseling to join their clients and build a relationship. They use therapies that they’ve learned to facilitate healthy change. In fact, counseling is the most often-used therapeutic technique, because good counsel is, itself, therapeutic.
So when you’re searching for a therapist/counselor, know that both words may be used. Many of us use the word “counselor” to differentiate ourselves as mental health therapists from other helping professionals such as massage therapists or art therapists. But we can use the word “therapist” to differentiate ourselves from lawyers and other types of counselors such as career counselors.