What’s the Difference Between a Counselor and a Therapist?
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- Counseling and therapy share many similarities, but a few differences set them apart.
- Counseling offers more short-term solutions, while therapy emphasizes long-term treatment.
- Counselors and therapists tend to earn the same amount of money, around $51,000.
- Both require extensive education, training, and state-based certification.
Here's a nice brain twist: Some people with degrees in counseling call themselves therapists, and some with degrees in therapy call themselves counselors.
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It's no wonder people get confused about whether they need to talk to a therapist or a counselor. Imagine the questions you might have if you're thinking about becoming one.
Oh, wait, maybe that's you. In that case, here's everything you need to know about counseling vs. therapy.
Counselor vs. Therapist: Are They the Same?
The short answer: No. However, at first glance, counselors and therapists share a lot of responsibilities, skills, and interests. They may both:
Specialize in areas such as child or adolescent therapy, substance misuse, anxiety or depression, and/or grief
Use creative talk therapy to get patients to identify and work on their challenges
Ask questions, give feedback, and identify achievable changes while exploring the patient's thoughts, feelings, insights, and behaviors
Work with individuals one-on-one and with couples, families, and groups
Must hold a license or certification required by their state to practice their profession
What Is the Difference Between a Counselor and Therapist?
A few key differences set them apart:
- Counseling tends to be a short-term process focused on one specific issue, while therapy is more long-term and treats a broader variety of issues.
- Therapists are more likely to explore someone's past and discover the root causes of issues, while counselors more often help people problem-solve issues in their day-to-day life.
- Counselors often teach specific techniques for coping with or avoiding a certain problem. Therapists focus on a person's patterns of thinking and behavior that affect how they view or interact with the world.
- In the profession, some will identify counseling as being "supportive," whereas therapy is a more collaborative, active approach to the client's identified issues.
Is It Easier to Become a Counselor or Therapist?
It's hard to say if one is easier than the other. Both roles require lots of time, money, and effort. Becoming a counselor or therapist generally requires 3-5 years of postgraduate education, 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised experience, and passing a state-recognized exam.
In some states, licensing requirements for counselors and therapists are the same. For example, counselors and therapists in Oregon both need at least 2,400 hours of supervised experience to qualify for licensure. It's important to note what your specific degree, in your specific state, requires for you to pursue licensure.
Who Makes More Money: Counselors or Therapists?
There isn't much of a pay gap between counselors and therapists. According to Payscale, the average salary for a clinical therapist is $52,950 and $52,440 for a licensed counselor as of Feb. 2023.
It's the same story for the highest-paid in the field. Both the top 10% of clinical therapists and licensed counselors earn more than $72,000 per year.
Can I Be a Therapist or Counselor Without a Degree?
No. You need at least a master's degree to become a counselor or therapist. Therapists and counselors can greatly impact a person's life, including their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
So therapists and counselors need postgraduate education to learn the proper techniques and strategies to earn credibility and help their clients.
What Degree Do I Need to Become a Counselor or Therapist?
You can generally earn an undergraduate degree in any field you want. But counselors and therapists need a master's degree in a subject relevant to mental health or psychotherapy. Common degrees to become a counselor or therapist include:
- Master's in Psychology
- Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy
- Master's in Social Work
- Master's in Behavioral Psychology
- Master's in Counseling
- Master's in Clinical Psychology
- Master's in Educational Psychology
- Master's in Organizational Psychology
- Master's in Child and Adolescent Psychology
- Master's in Human and Family Development