So, you’ve been thinking about trying therapy. Excellent! It is a tremendously helpful way to address life’s challenges and improve mental wellbeing. However, therapy is a complex field, and it can be hard to know where to start. Should you see a counselor or a psychotherapist? What’s the difference between the two, anyway?

The thing is, counseling and psychotherapy are both forms of talk therapy. They both involve meeting with a trained professional to discuss your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. But they are not the same thing. Below is an overview of the differences between counseling and psychotherapy.


Counselors often focus on helping you develop coping mechanisms for dealing with life challenges such as grief, loss, major life changes, job stress, relationship issues, and so on. Counseling uses a problem-solving approach and can be a great solution if you need help navigating daily life challenges.

Types of Counseling

There are different types of counseling. Some people might need to see a counselor because of relationship problems. Others might need to see a counselor because they have been through a traumatic experience and need help dealing with the aftermath. Below are some of the most common forms of counseling:

  • Relationship Counseling: Relationship counseling is a form of counseling that helps people learn how to communicate better, resolve conflicts, and build a stronger bond with each other.
  • Career Counseling: This type of counseling is for people having trouble with their career choices. The counselor will help the person figure out what they want to do with their lives and how to achieve their goals.
  • Mental Health Counseling: This type of counseling is recommended for people dealing with issues such as anger management, prolonged grief, eating disorders, stress, and so on.
  • Rehabilitation Counseling: This type of counseling is best suited for people who have been in an accident or have a physical disability. The aim is to help the person adjust to their new life and figure out how to live a fulfilling life despite their disability.


On the other hand, psychotherapy is a long-term commitment that addresses deeper-rooted issues such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and addiction. Psychotherapy probes the patient’s past to identify behavior and thinking patterns that may be contributing to their current problems.

This understanding can help you make lasting changes in the patient’s life. The therapist will then work with the patient to help them break loose from these negative thought patterns and behaviors that negatively impact their physical and emotional wellbeing.

Types of Psychotherapy

There are various techniques and approaches used in psychotherapy as outlined below:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of psychological therapy that focuses on helping the patient identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors. CBT combines both cognitive therapy (changing perceive different situations) and behavioral therapy (changing how you respond to those situations).
  • Cognitive Therapy: This type of therapy helps the patient identify negative thought patterns and replace them with more positive ones. This helps foster a positive outlook on life and promotes a positive mood and emotions.
  • Behavioral Therapy: This type of therapy focuses on helping patients change their habits. The therapist works with the patient to identify and change unhealthy or potentially self-destructive behaviors.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): Interpersonal therapy seeks to help patients understand and improve their social relationships. It operates on the premise that our relationships with others play a key role in our mental health.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy: Psychodynamic therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on the unconscious mind and how it affects the patient’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • Humanistic Therapy: This type of therapy focuses on the patient’s sense of self and personal growth. Humanistic therapy aims to help the patient develop a more positive view of themselves and their life.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, there are many differences between psychotherapy and counseling. Psychotherapy is a long-term commitment that addresses chronic and recurring issues, while counseling is shorter term and focuses on more immediate problems. There are also different techniques used in each type of therapy. 

Ultimately, the type of therapy you choose will depend on your needs and goals. If you’re not sure which one is right for you, consult a mental health professional to get their expert opinion.

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