Counselor Vs. Councilor: There Is A Difference

By Mary Elizabeth Dean

Updated December 03, 2019

Reviewer Deanna Daniels, LMFT

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There are many words 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 for your case when writing.

Neither Their nor There

Two words that are often confused are councilor and counselor. This is important when looking for someone to provide advice or counsel. The word councilor is a noun defined as one who serves in a public position or on a council. There are many types of counselors one might need in life. There is legal counsel when you might require legal advice and then there is the counselor that you might seek for psychological or any other problems related to your life and mental well-being. We'll talk more about this later in the article.

Counselor, Counsellor, Councilor, Councillor

The words councilor, councilor, counselor, and counselor sound completely the same, but they mean different things.

  • Councilor/Councillor: councillor is merely a variation of the word councilor, an alternative spelling that is preferred outside the U.S. It refers to a member of a council, such as a city council.
  • Counselor/Counsellor: A counselor (or counsellor), on the other hand, is someone who gives advice or therapy. A counselor can also be an attorney, a trial lawyer, or somebody who supervises young children, but it most commonly refers to somebody who provides behavioral health services in the form of talk therapy. It can also refer to a guidance counselor, 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. The example above of the words "councilor" and "counselor" show just how different a word that sounds the same can be. But this isn't just a grammar lesson, let's dig a bit deeper.


A councilor is an individual who is a member of a council. They're elected, and they play an important role in casting the local laws. That's what a councilor is. 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 advice or counsels. A counselor either advises people in one way or another, or they provide therapy. Regardless, they have clients that they see.

Counselors or Attorneys

You may have heard the term counsel used about lawyers or attorneys. There are times when an attorney can provide legal advice or counsel to their clients, but they're not the only professionals who can provide counsel. Just as an attorney can give counsel, a therapist can as well, although it would not be of a legal nature. While an attorney might offer advice, a counselor may also provide therapy. However, a counselor who is a therapist doesn't necessarily provide advice alone, rather they also help people with their problems.


The 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?

It comes from England. The word counselor, like the traditional spelling, came from Middle English, and it refers to an advisor, but it has evolved since then. We understand counselors to be therapists or advisors, people who guide us within their domain of expertise.

You've probably heard of a counselor who sees couples for therapy or a guidance counselor who works in schools. These mental health professionals are versatile and you can find them in a variety of locations. A counselor is a clinician that has a degree to perform counseling services. They 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 counselor serving as more of an informal term in some cases.

What's a Therapist?

  • A therapist is somebody that tends to hold a master's degree or higher
  • They are not legally protected
  • They can diagnose people

When to See a Counselor

Everyone needs guidance on various issues from time to time, which is why many people seek out a counselor. Whether it's to work on your marriage in couple's counseling, going to see a grief counselor to work through the death of a loved one, or seeing an individual therapist for your mental health, counseling can help us get through difficult times. You can visit a counselor in your local area or you can see an online therapist if you'd prefer the convenience and ease of working with a counselor at any time in the privacy of your home.

Wondering If There Is More Than One Type Of Counselor?
Ask A Professional. Chat With A Licensed Mental Health Counselor Online Now.


Different Types of Counselors

When seeking a counselor for a mental health-related issue consider the various types available when conducting your search, and be sure to choose a licensed counselor. 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. Selecting a licensed counselor is the most informed choice to make for your mental health.

Different specialties of mental health counselors include the following:

  • Marriage and relationship counselors work with married couples or couples who live together and are in conflict.
  • Family counselors work with the family as a whole unit. While they may see family members individually for more information, but their primary focus is on the family as a whole.
  • Addiction counselors work with individuals who are addicted to substances or activities such as gambling or gaming.
  • Grief Counselors work with those who have suffered a loss of a loved one.
  • Sex Counselors/therapists work with couples or individuals experiencing issues of a sexual nature or with sexual intimacy.
  • Mental health counselors 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 counselor specific to your needs. It's essential to research the type of counselor with the education and experience suited to provide the best help and guidance for your particular situation. If you broke your wrist, you probably wouldn't consult a podiatrist (foot specialist) for treatment even though they may understand broken bones. Similarly, it's wise to select a counselor that has experience treating the issue you are seeking help to address. At BetterHelp, there is an entire network of licensed counselors with expertise in various areas of mental health and counseling. They are here to provide you with supportive counseling and the tools to help yourself. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people who have been helped.

Counselor 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!"

"Kristen helps me to see my life and myself from a different perspective. I tell her about my experiences and she is able to hone into another side of the story that I couldn't get working things out on my own. And I had tried, for a very long time. As someone particularly skeptical of counseling in general, it has been refreshing to speak and work with someone who genuinely recognizes that I am seeking help but reluctant to take it. Her patience and consistent inquiry have been the greatest asset for me and I appreciate my time with her."


The words counselor and councilor 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! Take the first step today.

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