Many people use these terms interchangeably, but are counseling and therapy the same? Whether you are considering therapy for the first time or have considerable experience receiving mental health treatment, you may be unsure about the different services mental health professionals offer.
Let’s better understand the differences between counseling and therapy and look at some of the most common therapy options available today.
What are the Differences Between Counseling and Therapy?
Counseling and therapy are similar mental health practices licensed professionals offer to alleviate troubling thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Combined with changes in behavior, they can drastically improve the quality of an individual’s life.
Though there are substantial differences between counseling and therapy, these two practices have no firm boundaries and often overlap.
Generally speaking, counseling helps people facing particular life challenges. These life challenges can vary, and many circumstances can cause a significant enough disruption in a person’s mental well-being to lead to counseling.
Counseling services tend to be short-term, and some examples patients often see counselors for when faced with circumstances include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Relationship difficulties, including divorce
- Professional or legal worries
- Grief over the loss of a loved one
This umbrella term encompasses various recuperative practices.
For our purposes, we will be concerned with psychotherapy, a mental health practice offered by licensed professionals trained to use psychotherapeutic techniques to treat mental illness. These professionals may be counselors, psychologists, or clinical social workers.
Therapy addresses more serious underlying issues and may require longer-term care with more frequent visits than those visiting a counselor.
Therapy may also treat mental health symptoms that have no physical explanation. Some individuals experience chronic despair, hopelessness, or self-hatred that they cannot explain and which, to them, has no clear precursor.
Additionally, general health care providers may suggest therapy to patients they suspect are suffering from undiagnosed mental health concerns.
People enter into therapy for many reasons, including but not limited to the following:
- Major depressive disorder
- Anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders
Commonly, complex life challenges that motivate people to seek counseling go on to reveal underlying emotional disorders that require further therapy. This facet is one of the many ways counseling and therapy overlap.
Different Types of Therapy
There are dozens of types of psychotherapy, and qualified and experienced professionals specialize in one or more methods and will recommend a particular type based on your specific needs and symptoms.
Below are some of the most popular approaches to therapy, but there are many more options currently available to treat people in diverse, innovative ways:
- Psychodynamic Therapy is a common approach to therapy today that has its foundations in the work of Sigmund Freud. In psychodynamic therapy, the patient and therapist build a close alliance and examine unconscious thoughts and beliefs that may lead to unhealthy behaviors. Through practices such as dream interpretation or hypnotism, clients build up their self-esteem and develop tools to handle difficult situations.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), another standard therapy approach, focuses on a person’s thoughts and behaviors that cause self-destructive or harmful actions. In CBT, the therapist will help the patient identify the cognitive factors that lead to emotional disorders and replace them with new adaptive learning experiences.
- Interpersonal Therapy centers on a person’s relationships with others. Therapists work closely with clients to build their agency and help them adapt to stressful environmental stimuli.
- Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is a short-term, evidence-based therapy approach for children and adolescents who have experienced traumatic events. It addresses trauma-related symptoms, thoughts, and behaviors through cognitive and behavioral interventions, in a safe and supportive environment.
- Play Therapy is a form of therapeutic intervention that uses play as a means of communication and expression for children. It allows children to process and cope with emotional, behavioral, and social challenges through play activities facilitated by a trained therapist, promoting healing and growth.
At Advanced Behavioral Health, we are proud to be at the forefront of compassionate and effective therapeutic care.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a life crisis or persistent troubling emotions, please reach out to our team of qualified mental health specialists.
You can call us at 301-345-1022 or send us a message online here. One of our team members will stand by to help you find the confidential consultation you need.