Difference Between a Counselor Vs. Therapist

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If you are interested in helping people with their personal or relationship problems, you may be considering behavioral health career opportunities in counseling or therapy. While these terms are often used interchangeably, there are actually some differences between a counselor and a therapist. Getting clear on the job responsibilities and education and training requirements can help you decide the best career path for you. 

When you are ready to start your search for behavioral health jobs, check out the jobs board on Behavioral Health Jobs. We post all the latest job opportunities in the behavioral health field, including counseling and therapy positions. Find your next behavioral health job using our listings today. 

Counselor vs. Therapist: Which Career is Right for You?

The titles of counselor and therapist are often used interchangeably, even by those in the profession themselves, making it a little confusing to know the differences between the two. It is important to distinguish between both careers when you decide which path to follow since each has its own set of requirements regarding education, training, and licensing.

There are also some differences in the approaches each type of professional employs in their sessions:

  • Counselors focus more on problem-solving by guiding the client through teaching better coping skills, behavior modifications, and cognitive restructuring. They may use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help clients address thought patterns that interfere with their well-being and learn how to replace those distorted thoughts with a more helpful, accurate perspective.
  • Therapists focus more on interpersonal relationships and how the interactions in your life affect your mental and emotional health. Therapists can serve as a neutral party to help couples or family members see how their thoughts or behaviors contribute to disharmony and learn how to make changes that help their relationships heal and flourish. 

How Does State Licensing Distinguish Between Counselor vs. Therapist?

Your specialty may help determine your official title and the license required when it comes to state licensing. Choosing a specialty before you work toward getting licensed can help clarify whether you are classified as a counselor or a therapist:

  • If you would like to assist people with mental, emotional, and behavioral concerns, you may consider becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).
  • If you wish to support people with their mental health disorders, you may consider becoming a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC).
  • If you want to oversee clients’ well-being and help connect them to the right services and programs for their needs, you may prefer to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). 
  • If you are interested in working with couples and families to help them heal their relationships, you may want to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). 

As you can see, state licensing generally considers a therapist to be those professionals that focus on helping couples and families. The other professions that primarily assist individuals with their personal issues are referred to as counselors. 

What Are the Differences in Education Required of a Counselor vs. a Therapist?

Whether you choose to be a counselor or a therapist, you will generally need a master’s degree and some field experience. The hours of training you need may vary depending on the specialty you choose, your school, and your state. Here are some examples of master’s degrees you may obtain for each profession:

  • Master’s in counseling (MAC)
  • Master’s in mental health counseling (or clinical mental health counseling)
  • Master’s in social work (MSW)
  • Master’s in marriage and family counseling (MFT)

Behavioral Health Jobs: Helping You Find the Best Behavioral Health Career Opportunities

Now that you know the differences between being a counselor vs. a therapist, you are better prepared for your next job search. The jobs board on Behavioral Health Jobs can help connect with the most up-to-date behavioral health career opportunities in counseling and therapy.

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