Counseling Vs. Therapy: Which Is Better?

Updated December 8, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

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Although the terms “counseling” and “therapy” are often used interchangeably, there may be differences between them that mean one or the other could be better suited to your needs. Generally, therapists and counselors can both give advice to clients to help them handle specific issues, but counseling tends to be short-term, while therapy is usually more long-term. Psychotherapy generally helps people with past issues that may be the underlying reasons for present behavior. Meanwhile, counseling tends to be more focused on the present. If you believe you’d get value from therapy, you may wish to try it online.

Comparing Counseling And Therapy

Psychotherapy and counseling generally depend on a strong, trusting relationship between you and your chosen mental health professional. Both psychotherapy and counseling usually rely on talking to work through problems and mental health concerns.

However, this is typically where the similarities end between these two types of treatment. Psychotherapy usually relies on delving into your past and working together with your therapist to understand how your past experiences have brought you to the place you are today. Counseling is often more focused on the present. It may center on recent events and how they affect you currently.


A psychotherapist or therapist can use both counseling and psychotherapy to treat their clients. Some therapists may have completed training to become medical doctors in addition to their psychological training. Psychotherapists typically focus on determining the causes of chronic emotional issues. They are often concerned with the patient's thoughts, how they think, how they draw conclusions, and their reasoning for their behavior. Psychotherapists may treat clients on a long-term basis and help them make significant and lasting changes to their lives. They can fundamentally alter the way their clients see and react or adjust to the happenings in their world. 

There can be many different types of psychotherapy in which the psychotherapist is trained, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, psychoanalytical psychotherapy, and others.


A counselor is generally seen as an advisor who works with a client to find solutions to specific problems or issues on a short-term basis. A trained counselor has often received training as a nurse or a social worker, although this is not always the case. They usually focus on present behavior with the idea of helping the client find ways to change it, and they generally rely on talk therapy. Counselors may give advice and suggestions to deal with grief, career frustrations, relationship issues, and more. 

You may decide to see a counselor when:

  • You’d like guidance regarding short-term issues or concerns.

  • You’d like to learn coping skills for stress or relationship problems.

  • You’re finding it difficult to adjust your lifestyle.

  • You’re experiencing concerns about substance use.

You may decide to see a therapist when:

  • You need help coping with traumas from your past.

  • You have a chronic medical problem that is causing emotional stress.

  • You have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

  • You have seen a counselor, and they suggested further treatment.

How Does Therapy Work?

Psychotherapy tends to be effective at finding the root cause for depression and other disorders. This type of therapy may assume that something in the past is responsible for your current mental health issues. It can be difficult to know if events in your past are affecting your mental health in the present, and this is often where psychotherapy comes in. Many people don't realize just how much traumatic events in the past can subconsciously affect their present decisions, motivations, and behaviors.

A psychotherapist is often skilled in the use of many different therapies. They may rely on the therapeutic relationship between themself and their clients to achieve an understanding of which therapy to use. The choice of therapy can depend on the diagnosis and needs of the client. 

Address Your Mental Health Concerns With A Professional.

How Does Counseling Work?

Effective counseling generally involves a healthy therapeutic relationship in the same way therapy does. The general goal of counseling is usually to use talk therapy to help clients work through the issues that are affecting them negatively. Counselors often listen, provide feedback, and counsel. They may not provide answers directly but may guide their clients to uncover these answers for themselves.

Counselors may discuss present behaviors and help you understand how these behaviors elicit unwanted results. They may work to understand you and your life by asking questions that reveal your thought processes. The more they know about you, the more effective their counseling may be.

Explore Online Therapy For Mental Health Concerns

Therapy can be an appropriate treatment for a variety of mental health concerns, such as anxiety, depression, stress, personality disorders, and many more. One of the advantages of choosing online therapy over traditional face-to-face therapy is that you can connect with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your own home at a time that fits into your schedule.

As this study explains, online therapy can be as effective as traditional therapy. In addition, it’s often more accessible and affordable, which can add convenience to the process. Please don’t hesitate to reach out and get the help and support you deserve.


You may often hear people talk about counseling and therapy as if they are the same thing, but they can have significant differences. For instance, therapy tends to be focused on the past and how it may be influencing the present. Meanwhile, counseling usually focuses on current problems and identifies solutions. In addition, therapy is generally a longer-term treatment, while counseling can be more short-term. If you feel therapy would be beneficial for you, an online therapy platform can be an excellent place to begin.

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