Councilor Vs. Counselor: What Is The Difference?

Medically reviewed by April Justice
Updated November 14, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

There are many words in the English language that sound the same but have different meanings. These words are called homophones and can confuse people when trying to use the right word. Two such words that can confuse people are councilor and counselor. While counselor and councilor may sound the same, they refer to separate professions with significantly different duties. 

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What Is A Councilor?

Councilor is a noun that refers to someone from the council. In UK English, it is often spelled councillor. Within the US, councilors are part of a city council.  These are elected officials responsible for addressing political issues within a city, such as passing new laws or dealing with complaints from citizens.

What Is A Counselor?

The word counselor sounds like the word councilor, but the meanings of these two words are different. A counselor is a person who counsels others by giving advice. In the US, the job title of a mental health counselor is a government-regulated title, meaning you must be licensed as a counselor to provide mental health services under this title. Someone who offers counsel and life advice without a license to practice therapy or counseling may be called a “life coach” or “peer support specialist.” 

Counselors support individuals in various ways, and there are several job titles under this term.

For example, a counselor might work in the following settings: 

  • Career counseling
  • School counseling
  • Guidance counseling
  • Mental health counseling 
  • Religious counseling 
  • Prenatal counseling 
  • Family counseling
  • Couples counseling 
  • Child and adolescent counseling 
  • Substance use counseling

Counselors in mental health have a master’s degree or higher in counseling, psychology, social work, or a related field. Once licensed in their state, they can legally offer advice, diagnosis, and mental health support to those they treat. Clients often attend therapy with a counselor to receive advice and learn more about their mental well-being. 

In the UK, the term “counselor” is used similarly but is not controlled by the government in the same way as in the US. In the UK, there are no official requirements to become a counselor outside of a few years of schooling and an association with a psychological or counseling board. However, it can be challenging to get a job as a counselor without these requirements. 

Mental Health Counseling

Mental health counseling is one of the most common forms of counseling in the US. Providers working as licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs or LPCs) can support many types of clients. They may diagnose mental illness, offer a treatment plan, teach coping skills, and provide professional advice. Counselors devise treatment plans based on a client’s goals and needs. 

Couples Counseling And Marriage Counseling

Couples or marriage counseling is therapy dedicated to meeting a couple’s goals. You don’t necessarily have to have a mental health condition or severe concern to see a couples therapist. In couples therapy, there is often an opportunity for both people in the relationship to hear each other’s concerns and practice communicating in a safe, neutral, and supportive environment. The individuals involved may also have their own one-on-one therapists outside of couples counseling. 

Family Counseling

Family therapy is a type of counseling for families. There are many reasons a family unit might seek therapy, including but not limited to the following: 

  • Divorce or separation of parents or caregivers
  • Adding individuals in the family
  • Family planning
  • Childhood mental illness
  • A common traumatic event or loss 
  • Childhood behavioral concerns 
  • Life transitions 
  • Adoption or fostering
  • Sibling rivalry 
  • Substance use challenges* 

*If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.

Family therapy can be between spouses or partners, parents, children, or extended family. Clients can learn research-backed skills to improve their interpersonal relationships with a trained family counselor. 

Substance Use Counseling

Substance use counseling supports those experiencing a substance use disorder or dependency on a substance. By working with a substance use counselor, a person can learn why they developed their challenges, any underlying mental health concerns that could contribute to their dependency, and ways to cope in the future. Therapists can also offer advice for repairing relationships and finding local resources, if applicable. 

Trauma And Abuse Counseling

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788. You can also use the online chat

Trauma and abuse counseling helps clients process past challenging events. Abuse is defined as any act meant to exert psychological or physical power over another person. Abuse counseling can help clients recover from the psychological impacts of abuse or trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Abuse counseling may help clients address anger, self-doubt, trust concerns, anxiety, and flashbacks, among other trauma symptoms. 

Guidance Counseling

Often working in a K-12 school setting, guidance counselors are providers that work as part of a school’s staff. They are often responsible for helping students choose classes, apply to colleges, and plan for future careers. They may also help students develop social and emotional skills to cope with school, make and keep friends, and be well-prepared for the requirements of college life.

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Health Counseling

Health and wellness counselors provide individuals with health-related counseling. This area of counseling involves providing people with the tools and motivation to better their health, often concerning their physical health. It may include coaching in healthy eating, exercise, or physical therapy. A health counselor may be concerned with helping people improve their overall health to improve their quality of life.

Counseling Options 

There are various options available to those looking for counseling. However, counseling can come at a cost, and some individuals may not be able to afford traditional in-person therapy. In these cases, internet-based interventions can be more effective. 

For example, one study found that internet-based interventions were more cost-effective for clients than in-person options. Another found that online therapy could be as effective as traditional therapy in treating symptoms of depression, chronic stress, social anxiety, and anxiety disorders. 

If you want to try an internet platform, consider signing up with a website like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples. Both offer low rates and over 30,000 licensed providers with experience in various specialties. 

Takeaway

The difference between counselor and counselor comes down to the spelling and their meanings. Councilors are legal advice professionals, and counselors are mental health workers. If you want to meet with a counselor, consider reaching out online or in person for personalized support. 

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