What Is The Difference Between Counseling and Therapy?

Both therapists and counselors are generally mental health practitioners.  It is common these days for the terms to be used interchangeably.  In Oregon, there is not much regulation around who can use the words Counselor or Therapist so it is important to research the education, experience and licensing processes the counselor or therapist has gone through in order to best meet your own personal needs. 

Therapist generally refers to someone who is providing some form of psychotherapy and a counselor can be used more generally – however, many counselors are also practicing psychotherapy (I know… there is no black and white line here, it can be somewhat confusing!).  Counselors vary in their specialties.  Both generally have a minimum of a Master’s degree in counseling psychology or social work. 

What I have come across most often are mental health clinicians asking their friends, families and clients which sounds more inviting to the particular population they are wanting to work with and deciding to use a particular label from the information they have received in their research.

In Oregon, there are Licensed Professional Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists.  Both have taken similar course-work (with a few exceptions) in their master’s level education and would be well suited to treat a variety of issues in diverse populations.  In some other states, licensed Counselors and Therapists have varying degrees of differentiation and hold different levels of experience.

Someone can call themselves a Psychotherapist only if they are licensed in the state of Oregon.  It is my understanding that anyone can call themselves a Counselor or Therapist.  However, some people choose to continue to call themselves a counselor or therapist after licensure because they find it feels more welcoming to clients or draws a particular client towards their work. 

The bottom line when you are looking for your own counselor or therapist is to do your research, ask lots of questions and see if it feels like a good personality fit too.  The comfort in the relationship may end up being much more important than the letters after a person’s name so be sure to take that into consideration.  Give yourself some time to find someone who feels like the best fit and you can always ask for referrals and recommendations from any health care practitioner.