The Big Difference Between Therapy And Counseling

Seeing a therapist or counselor is likely more common than you would think. As of 2019, roughly 1 in 5 American adults had a mental illness, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). There is no evidence that this number will be decreasing anytime soon (via CDC). A silver lining is that people are becoming more willing to seek out mental health help when they need it (per PR Newswire). The CDC states that as of early 2021, more than one-fourth of young people had recently received treatment for mental health issues.

But for a number of people seeking out mental health help for the first time, it may become confusing choosing between the variety of different options available to them. One of these options is counseling or therapy. While the words are often used interchangeably, these types of treatment are different from one another. According to Healthline, therapists and counselors can differ in terms of education, training, licenses, and treatment plans.

This is what to keep in mind when selecting a therapist or counselor

Unlike therapists, not all counselors are licensed to practice in their state. Counseling also tends to require less education. This does not mean that counseling is never a suitable option, though. It really depends on the problems you are facing and the type of treatment you are seeking. Counseling tends to focus on specific present-day problems for a shorter period of time. Examples include grief, family problems, relationship issues, and stress (per Healthline). Therapy is more long-term and tends to go more in-depth, analyzing how your past traumas may have influenced your current mental state and determining how to address these underlying issues. Therapy may also focus on your perception, behaviors, and thought processes (per Mental Health Match).

With all this in mind, counseling may be perfect for you if you just need help dealing with short-term issues such as stress. On the other hand, if you are dealing with mental illness deeply rooted in trauma, therapy may be a better fit. Regardless, Healthline suggests seeking a therapist or counselor that is licensed and has at least a master's degree. This will help ensure that you are getting treatment from someone who is qualified.