Therapy & Counseling

What is the difference between therapy and counseling? This is a good question and it’s usually left unanswered.

Nowadays, there are no practical differences.  ‘Counseling’, ‘therapy’, and ‘psychotherapy’ are title words that grew from different traditions in the helping field. However, professionalization and standardization of practices in the last fifty years have erased their real difference. Current differences are more a matter of tradition and regional culture than of actual practice.

Historically, “therapists” and “psychotherapists” treated mental health problems, while “counselors” focused on career and personal development. Today, the field of mental health has grown enough, and has accumulated enough scientific evidence, to establish that people benefit from a combination of both healing and personal development. 

As long as the helper is licensed, whether as counselor or therapist, e.g. psychologist, mental health counselor, social worker, or family therapist, he/she will use unified shared principles, scientific knowledge, theories, techniques, and clinical methods accepted as standard.

A bit about Counseling and Therapy

  • Both are based on “common factors” known to be effective in helping people health, grow, and change.
  • The key element is the quality of the relationship between the therapist/counselor and client/patient. 
  • Therapists and Counselors are caring, empathic, aware, attentive, and supportive.
  • The relationship is a collaboration that values and empowers the uniqueness of the client.
  • Providers keep high ethical standards at all times and make the relationship fully focused on benefiting the client.

Treatment

  • Both counselors and therapists treat mental health conditions.
  • The goals of treatment include relief, healing, improving functioning, and strengthening resources.
  • Priorities are set to bring relief, care for immediate needs, improve functioning, and activate available and new resources.
  • A person can be healthy and functional and have specific areas of symptoms or distress to treat.
  • Clients can be called “patients”.
  • Treatment ends when goals have been met.

Focused Counseling

  • Goals are set to address very defined issues.
  • Usually short-term, with emphasis on problem solving.
  • Based on learning and practice for skill development.
  • Few sessions.

Couples Counseling

  • Helps partners understand their situation form new perspectives.
  • Creates conditions for safe and positive dialogue.
  • Teaches skills and motivates partners to collaborate.
  • Helps create options that respects and integrates individual preferences.
  • In bicultural couples, cultural sensitivity and competency help members appreciate differences.

Family Therapy

  • Helps members speak safely and constructively.
  • Assesses level of functioning and group needs.
  • Helps family members understand family dynamics.
  • Promotes positive boundaries.
  • Uses techniques to create new ways family dynamics.
  • Helps members recognize differences and appreciate diversity within the family.
  • Facilitates plans for the future.