Many people believe that counseling and therapy are the same. But wait, there is a difference. In this post, I will be discussing the difference in the service that is being delivered, not necessarily the training or licensure of the professional. The basic difference has to do with what problem the clients brings to the office, and there are similarities and differences as far as techniques and treatment options.


Counseling is usually shorter in duration, usually weeks or months. Counseling deals with very specific issues being presented. Some examples are grief counseling, marriage counseling, substance abuse counseling, and others. Counseling is usual delivered in individual or group form, although family counseling and couples counseling involves two or more people. Counselors usually belong to the American Counseling Association which governs their ethics, training and licensure. A national body that influences the training and testing of counselors is the National Board for Certified Counselors.


Therapy is usually longer in duration, usually months or years. Therapy focuses on helping the client change their thought processes, their beliefs about themselves and the world around them, how they express emotions and how they interact with the world around them from their core. Issues clients present for therapy tend to be more complicated, like trauma, long term depression or anxiety, family of origin issues, and personality related issues. An example of an association that governs one type of therapist is the American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy.

Counseling and therapy can be delivered by various professionals including marriage and family therapists, professional counselors, substance abuse counselors, social workers, psychologists, and even psychiatrists. Even professionals often mix up the terms counseling and therapy, so don’t worry about mistaking one for the other. The object is to heal, and that can happen with either one. It all depends on what you want to work on.


Todd has been a therapist for over 20 years in a variety of settings. An unconventional therapist who tells the truth, Todd has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses, and authored his first book, Simply Relate.

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