Is There a Big Difference Between Counseling and Therapy?

Is There a Big Difference Between Counseling and Therapy?

Relationships & More is a counseling provider with offices in Croton-on-Hudson and Rye, NY. If you visit their website, you will see they offer couple’s counseling, adolescent counseling, and individual counseling. But you will also notice references to couple’s therapy. So which do they offer, counseling or therapy? More importantly, is there a significant difference between the two?

The terms ‘counseling’ and ‘therapy’ are often used interchangeably. It is not a big deal in most cases. However, there are times when the difference does matter. Perhaps that’s why Relationships & More generally refers to the services they provide as counseling services.

Specific vs. General

The biggest difference between counseling and therapy is rooted in the types of problems each one addresses. In a typical counseling session, counselors and clients are working together to address a specific problem. Couple’s counseling is a good example. It is designed to address relationship problems between spouses or partners.

Because specific problems are being addressed, couple’s counseling generally isn’t open-ended. It is designed to achieve a desired outcome. It should reach a conclusion at some point. Whether or not that conclusion is ever reached is up to the participants.

Therapy is different in that its focus is more general in nature. Patients do not necessarily meet with their therapists because they are trying to solve a specific emotional or mental problem. Rather, they are seeking a more general help for themselves as people. This makes therapy more open ended in both scope and duration.

In a typical therapy setting, there is no defined goal or conclusion. There may not be a specifically defined problem the therapist is asked to help with. Therapy sessions can continue for as long as the patient feels they need them. In terms of success or failure, the lack of goals and outcomes means that the patient ultimately decides whether therapy has been successful or not.

Offered by Licensed Professionals

The one thing therapy and counseling have in common is that services are provided by licensed professionals. In a counseling environment, the client might meet with a mental health counselor or clinical mental health counselor. At Relationships & More, counselor Angela Penichet is a licensed clinical social worker.

In the therapy setting, services can still be provided by mental health counselors and certified social workers. But they can also be provided by licensed psychotherapists. A licensed psychotherapist has undergone additional training that social workers and mental health counselors have not.

Helping People Get Better

Despite differences in scope and duration, there is another thing counseling and therapy have in common: the goal of helping people get better. Whether it is a counselor or psychotherapist, the clinician providing service wants to see patients overcome whatever problems are troubling them. They may utilize different approaches toward achieving that goal, but the goal itself is the same.

As for whether or not a person should choose one over the other, there are no hard and fast rules. In some cases, patients are referred to counselors or therapists by their primary care physicians. That is not always the case, though.

Couples looking for marriage counseling generally seek help of their own accord. They don’t go to their GPs to figure out how to fix their marriages. On the other hand, the family doctor may recommend parents to a counselor if they are having trouble with adolescent children.

The big difference between counseling and therapy is the specificity of the problems being addressed. Counseling is more specific and goal oriented. Therapy is more generic and open-ended. That is really it in a nutshell.

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