Choosing A Counselor Or Psychotherapist: Is There A Difference?

Revised:  November 27, 2013

By:  Mentor Research Institute

If you need counseling or psychotherapy, there is no task more important than locating and choosing a counselor or therapist that best meets your needs.  Of course this can be difficult if you are uncertain about what you need. 

The following information and guidelines should help. 

  • Outcomes are better when people actively seek out and select their own psychotherapist or counselor.

  • Counseling and psychotherapy are fundamentally different.  There is significant overlap as they are practiced and many professionals do both. 

  • Counselors trained to provide psychotherapy can provide excellent psychotherapy. 

  • Problems that involve or may involve serious behavioral and psychological problems require working with professionals who have advanced clinical and psychotherapy training including experience recognizing potential medical problems.

  • Counseling primarily involves defining problems, decision making, problem solving and providing, information, advice or guidance.

  • Psychotherapy primarily involves the application of psychological and behavioral therapies intended to improve physical and psychological well-being.

  • A positive relationship is a critical factor in counseling or therapy and is absolutely critical when working with children and teens.

  • It is easy to find an experienced and highly trained therapist.   Without assistance and information, it can be extremely difficult to find a psychotherapist who cares, respects your privacy, is willing to confront your managed health care company and will hold your legal and ethical rights above their own financial benefit.

  • The ability to work with adults does in no way means a professional is able to work effectively with teenagers and children.

  • Outcomes are better when clients or patients work with professionals who are of the same racial/ethnic background.

  • Unlicensed and unsupervised counselors or therapists are usually incompetent and may do more harm than good - or no good at all.