Counselor Vs. Councilor

By: Mary Elizabeth Dean

Updated July 21, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Deanna Daniels, LMFT

There are many synonyms in the English language that sound the same but carry two entirely different meanings. These words are called homonyms.

For example, the words "there" and "their" sound similar, but they mean two different things. One is an adverb and the other is a pronoun. Even though they may sound the same in speech, it's important to use the right version in writing.

Neither Their nor There

Two words that are often confused are councilor and counselor. The first is a noun defined as one who serves in a public position.

There are many types of counselors one might need in life. There is legal counsel for when you might require legal advice, and then there is the therapist or counselor that you might seek for psychological or any other problems related to your life and mental well-being. We'll talk more about the difference between councilor and counselor later in the article.

Different Counselor Spellings And What They Mean

The words sound completely the same, but they mean different things. Each one refers to its own program within its relevant field. This means that the definition is relative to the type being referred to.

For example, a camp guide supervises people while camping and spending time outdoors, giving safety advice and guidance—whereas a marriage and family therapist is a licensed mental health professional who advises people regarding sensitive issues in marriage and dating relationships.

Marriage and family therapists may provide individual, couples, and even abuse therapy when domestic violence is involved. Below are some examples of related terms.

Councilor/Councillor: These words mean the same thing but have different spellings. Using two "L"s is an alternative spelling that is preferred outside the U.S. It refers to a member of a professional organization, such as a city official.

This individual is a member of some type of governing body, and its definition refers to a public official who is responsible for creating rules and laws within their jurisdiction.

Counselor/Counsellor: Both of these spellings, counselor and counsellor, refer to someone who gives advice or therapy. They can also be an attorney, a trial lawyer, or somebody who supervises young children, but the definition most commonly refers to somebody who provides behavioral health services in the form of talk therapy. It can also refer to a guidance or school psychologist, frequently seen in schools or academic settings.

The English language has many homonyms, and it can be hard at times to figure out what the meaning of a particular word is. 

Councilors (Not Counselors)

This is an individual who is a member of a government. They are a member of a governing body who is elected, and they play an important role in casting the local laws.

More commonly used is the word "counselor," which most often refers to somebody that you'd see in a therapy setting, is somebody who gives psychotherapy services for issues like substance abuse, individual therapy, couples therapy, and family therapy.

A therapist either advises people in one way or another, or they provide therapy. Regardless of whether your provider is practicing law or family therapy, they offer some form of advice in a professional capacity.

Attorneys

You may have heard the term counsel used about lawyers or attorneys. There are times when an attorney can provide legal advice to their clients, but they're not the only professionals who can provide advice in a professional setting. Just as an attorney can give advice, a therapist can as well, although it would not be of a legal nature. 

Origin of the Word Counselor

We can learn a lot from looking into where a word comes from to understand how it's used today. So where does the word counselor originate and how do we use it now?

The word counselor comes from Great Britain from Middle English, and it refers to an advisor, but it has evolved since then. Today, we understand a counselor to be therapists or advisors, or people who guide us within their domain of expertise.

You've probably heard of a therapist who sees couples for therapy, or a guidance counselor who works in schools. These are both clinicians that have a degree to perform such services. These mental health professionals are versatile and you can find them in a variety of industries.

A therapist and a counselor require advanced training, such as graduate school, and they don't necessarily have a background in clinical research. This can also be known as a therapist, with a counselor serving as more of an informal term in some cases.

What's a Therapist vs. Counselor?

A professional therapist is someone who is licensed to practice psychotherapy and behavioral psychology techniques for individuals, couples, and families in crisis or seeking advice. Today's therapists typically hold a Master's in therapy, social science, or a higher degree related to social science. Therapist and the term counselor is sometimes used interchangeably but the licensing is different.

Professional therapists are required to have a degree to provide general psychology and psychotherapy services.

Examples of licensed therapists who have degrees outside of the general field are marriage and family therapists who provide couples' or family therapy services or licensed social workers who are trained to provide other forms of mental health therapy with community referral services.

People visit professional therapists for a variety of personal reasons. Seeking abuse therapy for domestic abuse or speaking with an addiction therapist to create better outcomes for you and your family is nothing to be ashamed of.

Professional therapists are trained in the art of behavioral psychology (among other methods) and can use this training to teach people how to make better life decisions. 

Therapy sessions are private and confidential. This means that whether you take part in individual or family therapy, that sessions with your licensed therapist, or licensed social worker for marriage and family therapy are protected by confidentiality by law.

When to See A Therapist or Counselor

Everyone needs guidance on various issues from time to time, which is why many people seek out a therapist. Some people look forward to encouraging and insightful words from therapists. Whether it's to work on your marriage in couple's therapy, going to see a grief therapist to work through the death of a loved one, or seeing an individual therapist for your mental health, therapy can help us get through difficult times.

You can visit a therapist in your local area, or you can see an online therapist if you'd prefer the convenience and ease of working with a therapist at any time in the privacy of your home.

Different Types of Therapists

When seeking a therapist for a mental health-related issue or social work consider the various types of licensed social workers and other mental health therapists available when conducting your search, and be sure to choose a licensed therapist. Note that sometimes the term therapist and counselor is used interchangeably but can refer to different professions.

There are many types of people who claim to be able to help us out who do not have the credentials to do so. For example, while there are life coaches who are excellent at their jobs, due to a lack of regulation there are others who can cause people emotional damage.

People who are experiencing mental health disorders or substance abuse issues should make sure that the professional, whether a licensed therapist or counselor that they choose has the credentials to competently provide the services they need to get better.

If you need substance abuse therapy -- check with your therapy practitioner or social worker to make sure their credentials state that they have the education and experience to provide substance abuse therapy (in advance of your therapy session.) Selecting a licensed therapist is the most informed choice to make for your mental health.

Different specialties of mental health therapists include the following:

  • Marriage and relationship therapists work with married couples or couples who live together and are in conflict. Married couples often take words from marriage therapists to heart. (Be sure your marriage and family therapist is certified to practice in your location.)
  • Family therapists work with the family as a whole unit to provide social work and therapy services. While a therapist or social worker may see family members individually for more information -- the primary focus of the social worker is on the family as a whole.
  • Addiction therapists work with individuals who are addicted to substances or activities such as gambling or gaming. People who see addiction therapists are often referred for additional social work-related services like employment or housing services.
  • Grief therapists work with those who have suffered a loss of a loved one to provide therapy, social work, and other support services to help family members progress through the stages of the grieving process.
  • Sex therapists work with couples or individuals experiencing issues of a sexual nature or with sexual intimacy.
  • Mental health therapists work with individuals who have been diagnosed with depression and other mental health disorders that can be managed through a range of therapies.

These are just a few of the umbrellas under which you can find a mental health therapist specific to your needs.

It's essential to research the type of therapist or counselor with the education and experience suited to provide the best help and guidance for your particular situation. For example, someone who specializes in the practice of forensic psychology may not be the choice if you're looking for a therapist who provides cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

If you broke your wrist, you probably wouldn't consult a podiatrist (or someone who practices forensic psychology) for treatment, even though they may understand broken bones. Similarly, it's wise to select a therapist that has experience treating the issue you are seeking help to address.

At BetterHelp, there is an entire network of licensed therapists with expertise in various areas of mental health and therapy. They are here to provide you with supportive therapy and the tools to help yourself. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people who have been helped.

BetterHelp Therapist Reviews

"I have come a long way. With the help of Alexis, I have accomplished things I thought I'd never do. I am glad I did this, it has benefited me so much. With the guidance and encouragement of Alexis, I am more confident in myself and I see a clear path to success and happiness. I have learned to control myself and not doubt myself. It is hard to let go but I know I will be fine and if I need she will still be here for me. Thank you Alexis you have truly helped me change my life. I am so grateful. I wish you the best!"

https://www.betterhelp.com/alexis-james/#testimonials

Conclusion

The word variations of a counselor may sound the same, but they have very different meanings. Nevertheless, we all need some guidance sometimes. Don't be afraid to reach out when you need a helping hand to a counselor or another licensed professional! Take the first step today.


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