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Counseling vs. Therapy: Is There A Difference?

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While the terms “counseling” and “therapy” are typically used interchangeably when talking about mental health interventions, there are vast differences between the two types of services!

While both are treatments for mental health issues that involve interacting with a mental health professional and working through an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, there are key characteristics that separate the two. 

Counseling: Short-term Treatment for Specific Issues

Typically, counseling focuses on one specific issue that the client chooses to address and is considered a short-term treatment. During the limited sessions, the individual will learn new coping mechanisms, gain self-awareness, and problem-solve the issue with the mental health professional. Additionally, counseling can help relieve acute stress and provide clarity and guidance toward the problem that the client brings forth. 

Some examples of counseling include marriage counseling, school counseling, grief counseling, and career counseling. 

Therapy: Long-term Treatment for Overall Growth

On the other hand, therapy is usually a long-term treatment that focuses on the individual as a whole. In partnership with the therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, the client may choose to focus on one specific difficulty or a wide range of issues. Through this process, the client and therapist will develop a strong therapeutic alliance and the therapist will learn about how the client views themselves and the world around them. 

Typically, there are significant changes and an increase of awareness brought to the client’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and how they impact their presenting problem. 

Some examples of therapy include seeking recovery from an eating disorder, working towards improving symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improving one’s interpersonal skills. 

Choosing the Right Treatment for You

Counseling and therapy are both collaborative, positive, and solution-focused in nature. While both interventions provide support and action plans, choosing the right treatment is a personal decision! 

While some people feel more comfortable with a limited amount of sessions and an end goal clearly in sight, others feel most supported knowing there will be long-term assistance provided to them for the foreseeable future.

Offering Free Support

At A Brighter Day Charity, we offer both short-term and long-term treatment available to you at no charge. Text “BRIGHTER” to 741-741 for free, 24/7, crisis support from trained counselors. If you are looking for consistent support, send us an email at to be connected to three months of complementary therapy through BetterHelp.

Text BRIGHTER to 741741 for immediate crisis support

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