Therapist or Counselor?


People will ask, “Is there a difference between a ‘Therapist’ and a ‘Counselor’? To that, I submit the following for your consideration.

Be aware, these are my definitions; others will have other definitions.

I define a counselor as a person who does something for the person that they can’t do.  This is a person who suggests ideas or solutions to the person seeking services. They provide answers to the person, telling them how they are to do something, what they should say in different situations. They take on the role of “the answer man”.  They do for the person what the person can’t do for themselves. One could also describe this as providing information to a person that needs such; and some problems are of the “How do I do …..” nature.

A therapist, on the other hand, helps the person figure out their own solutions. They do this by listening to the person describing the problem, their background history with the problem and in life in general, what they have tried before to solve the problem and the results they got from these attempts and the kind of solution they are hoping for. They help the person look at how they look at the problem, identify other ways of looking at the problem, make observations about connections/correlations/similarities/differences/etc. in the person’s background, the problem, and prior attempts at a solution that the person may never have seen or considered before. From all this, the therapist facilitates the person finding his own solution. They help the person look differently at the information they already have. The therapist addresses problems of a “How do I live with or face ……” nature.

They, the counselor and the therapist, may do similar things in the therapy session, i.e., collect background history information, ask questions, inquire about what has been tried before as far as a solution is concerned. The difference however is the philosophical beliefs behind what they are doing. Whereas the counselor believes the person doesn’t have their answers and cant’ figure them out, the therapist believe the person can develop their own solutions. They have an inherent faith in the person and their ability to overcome their problems. This is important because if you believe in the person’s ability to solve their problems and help them do such, they may then be able to solve the next problem they encounter on their own, without the help of anyone. Think “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

I am a therapist.