Difference between counsellor and therapist

Difference between counsellor and therapist
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 23-03-2023

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The two terms ‘Counsellor’ and ‘Therapist’ are often used interchangeably as they share several commonalities, but there are a few significant differences too. Usually, counselling is referred to for a particular problem or circumstance, like addiction or grief, and takes place over weeks to several months. Psychotherapy, however, tends to focus more on past issues that might be the source of present-day problems. In actual practice, though, there is a great deal of overlap between the two. Acknowledging the differences between counselling and psychotherapy shall assist you in selecting what will be more suitable for you in a particular scenario.

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  • Formation of a safe and empathetic therapeutic alliance between the service provider and client.
  • Effective results for a variety of individuals (including adults and children) as well as a wide range of issues.
  • Provide support and psycho-education.
  • Isn’t the first-line treatment for Neurosis.
  • May or may not involve testing.


  • Focus on a particular problem or current circumstances.
  • Duration-Short term.
  • Action focused.
  • Primary method-Talk therapy.


  • Focus is on past issues or past experiences.
  • Look for overall patterns.
  • Duration-Long term.
  • Useful for personal growth.

Choosing between Counsellor and Psychotherapist

While choosing a therapist, it is important to know about the differences (mentioned above) besides experience or expertise and credentials. You may talk to the service provider or check for reviews of others before actually booking an appointment. Knowing which of these two is better for you is very subjective and situational.

Counselling shall be better if:

  • You have a particular issue or short-term crisis you want to deal with.
  • You want to build coping skills for better management of stress.
  • You wish to improvise your relationships.
  • You are going through tough times (like separation or the death of a parent).
  • You want to deal with substance abuse issues.

Psychotherapy shall be better if

  • You have persistent problems from the past that hampering your present.
  • You have been diagnosed with mental health conditions like personality-related disorders or phobias.
  • No prominent results even after you have seen a counsellor.

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