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Counselor vs. Therapist — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on October 4, 2023
A counselor provides guidance in decision-making and problems, while a therapist offers treatment for emotional and mental disorders.
Counselor vs. Therapist — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Counselor and Therapist


Key Differences

Counselors and therapists are both professionals who assist individuals in navigating challenges in their lives. A counselor typically focuses on helping individuals make decisions, cope with stressful situations, and navigate life's challenges. They might be found in schools, career centers, or rehabilitation clinics, aiding individuals in specific life domains.
On the other hand, a therapist is a broad term that encompasses professionals trained to treat emotional, mental, and sometimes physical disorders. They employ a range of therapeutic techniques tailored to address specific psychological disorders or challenges. Their goal is to help clients understand their emotions, behaviors, and thought processes.
While there's overlap between the roles of a counselor and a therapist, the latter often requires more extensive training. A therapist can be a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker, among others, having received specialized training in therapeutic methods. In contrast, while many counselors have advanced degrees and training, some may operate with less formal education, especially in non-clinical settings.

Comparison Chart

Primary Focus

Provides guidance in decision-making and problems.
Offers treatment for emotional and mental disorders.


Varies, but can operate with less formal education in some settings.
Typically requires extensive training in therapeutic methods.


Schools, career centers, rehabilitation clinics.
Clinics, hospitals, private practice.


Specific life domains, like career or academic counseling.
Broad, including various psychological challenges and disorders.

Treatment Techniques

Guidance, advice, and coping strategies.
Psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, among others.

Compare with Definitions


A professional offering guidance on personal issues.
She met with a school counselor to discuss her academic challenges.


An individual offering therapeutic medical treatments.
Physical therapists help patients with movement dysfunctions.


Someone trained to give advice in specific areas.
As a career counselor, he helps individuals choose the right profession.


A professional trained in treating mental or emotional disorders.
She started seeing a therapist to cope with her anxiety.


A consultant in various institutions.
The camp counselor ensured the children had a memorable summer.


Someone helping clients understand and change behaviors.
The cognitive-behavioral therapist focused on changing negative thought patterns.


A person who aids in decision-making or problem-solving.
The rehabilitation counselor assisted him during his recovery.


A broad term for practitioners using various therapeutic techniques.
The child's therapist used play therapy to address trauma.


A person who gives counsel; an adviser.


A healer of physical or psychological challenges.
He recommended a speech therapist for her son's language delay.


An attorney, especially a trial lawyer.


A person who specializes in psychotherapy.


A person who supervises children at a summer camp.


A person who specializes in any of various other medical or psychological therapies
A speech therapist.
A physical therapist.


A person, especially a licensed professional, who treats people with mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and problems. See Usage Note at council.


Someone who provides therapy, usually professionally.


A professional who counsels people, especially on personal problems.


A psychotherapist specifically.


(education) A school counselor, often in a specialty such as careers, education, or health.


A person skilled in a particular type of therapy


(legal) An attorney.


(politics) A high ranking diplomat, usually just below an ambassador or minister.


(America) A children’s supervisor, usually at camp.


One who counsels; an adviser.
Can he that speaks with the tongue of an enemy be a good counselor, or no?


A member of council; one appointed to advise a sovereign or chief magistrate. [See under Consilor.]


One whose profession is to give advice in law, and manage causes for clients in court; a barrister.
Good counselors lack no clients.


Someone who has supervisory duties at a summer camp.


Some who gives advice about problems


Someone who has supervisory duties at a summer camp


A lawyer who pleads cases in court


An advisor assisting in particular life situations.
The couple went to a marriage counselor for relationship advice.

Common Curiosities

Can a career counselor help with mental health?

They can offer guidance, but for clinical issues, a therapist is more appropriate.

Are the terms counselor and therapist interchangeable?

While they overlap, they have distinct focuses and training requirements.

Can a counselor diagnose mental disorders?

It depends on their training; licensed clinical counselors can.

Is a school psychologist a therapist or a counselor?

They can function as both but are formally trained as therapists.

Do all therapists have advanced degrees?

Typically, therapists have advanced training in therapeutic methods.

What's the primary goal of a therapist?

To treat emotional, mental, and sometimes physical disorders.

Can a counselor offer therapy?

Licensed clinical counselors can offer therapy.

Can a therapist prescribe medication?

Only psychiatrists and some psychiatric nurse practitioners can prescribe medication.

Are all therapists licensed?

Most therapists are licensed, but licensing requirements vary.

Which professional uses psychotherapy?

Therapists, including psychologists and social workers, use psychotherapy.

How long does it take to become a therapist?

It varies, but many require a master's or doctoral degree plus supervised experience.

Do therapists and counselors work together?

Yes, they often collaborate to provide comprehensive care to clients.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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