Psychotherapy Perspectives

Monday, August 21, 2006

What is the difference between Counseling and Psychotherapy?

Some professionals call themselves “counselors” and others are called “psychotherapists” What is the difference between the two? I can only venture a professional “guess” and this reflects only the philosophy of Davis Mintun Professional Services Inc. In no way can this be purported as a “truth” among professional psychotherapists or counselors.

To us, counseling is more educational and professional guidance or advice giving. The territory the counselor covers is more specialized, i.e., school guidance counseling, addiction program counseling to name a few examples. Often there is a structure of the work that encompasses educational interaction and a defined structure.

For example, a substance abuse counselor as a part of counseling may state that the client must have a sponsor, enroll in a 12 step program and the counseling may incorporate the 12 step program. The counselor will assist the person in his or her recovery and this will be the main focus of the intervention. Marital issues, depression, anxiety may or may not be addressed but it is not the focus of the intervention.

In psychotherapy, the approach is generally toward deepening “insight” emotionally then counseling. Again using the example of substance abuse, a psychotherapist may look at the foundation of addiction in the person’s life. Generally the psychotherapist can delve into marital issues and family issues to intervene in the foundation of the substance abuse. Often psychotherapy encourages clients go to 12 Step programs, get an AA sponsor, etc, but the focus is often more holistic. In psychotherapy the root of the problem is the focus with less emphasis on treatment modalities, education on substance abuse and more insight oriented.

Both counseling and psychotherapy are important and have their place. What the client or consumer needs to be aware of is the difference so they will go to a professional who will meet their expectations.

What are your thoughts? What have your experiences been with counselors and psychotherapists?


  • Nice blog! Thanks.

    By Blogger Patricia, At 3:57 AM  

  • This is a good description and I think it's an important distinction. Interestingly, licenses for master's level clinicians in psychology and even for PhD's in psychology (not psychologist's) refer to counseling; i.e., licensed professional counselors. But, as you noted there is a difference between providing counseling and psychotherapy. Even for those in the field, it causes confusion and clinicians are not sure what to call themselves -- counselors or psychotherapists.


    By Blogger Lorraine, At 11:07 PM  

  • I am impressed, Very rarely do I discover a blog that is both educative and entertaining. Your thoughts are important; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to it.

    By Anonymous Counseling Jacksonville Fl, At 2:29 AM  

  • Thanks for your comment. I appreciate that you enjoyed the article.

    Garth Mintun

    By Blogger Garth Mintun, At 7:05 AM  

  • This article is really a big help. At first I'm still confused between counseling and psychotherapy and the differences in the process of medication.

    By Anonymous Counseling Center, At 8:11 PM  

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