Councilor Vs. Counselor: What Is The Difference?

Updated July 07, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Amy Brown

There are many words in the English language that sound the same but have different meanings. These words are called homophones, and can lead to some confusion for people when trying to use the right word – or, in this case, get the right kind of help. Two such words can confuse people are councilor and counselor. While counselor and councilor may sound the same, they refer to people in many professions that are all very different from each other. So how do you know if you need a counselor or a councilor, what is a counselor or councilor, and what type of counselor you may need?

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What Is A Councilor?

Put simply, a councilor is a noun that refers to a member of a council. Outside of the U.S., it is more often spelled ‘councillor’ instead. Within the U.S., our councilors are members of a city council.  These are elected officials that are responsible for dealing with political issues within a city, such as passing new laws or dealing with complaints from citizens.

What Is A Counselor?

The word counselor sounds just like the word councilor, but the meanings of these two words are very different. The definition of a counselor is a person who counsels people by giving advice, which is very different from someone who is a member of a city government. Counselors work to help people in many different ways because the field of counseling is a very wide one. Those who work in the field of counseling help people deal with some sort of personal issue. The word counselor can refer to a person who works in a mental health capacity, a guidance capacity, or even in a legal capacity.

When referring to the word counselor in a mental health capacity, these people have a degree in counseling, most often a master’s degree in counseling, social work or a related field, and are often licensed by their state. People with mental health issues typically attend counseling sessions to help them learn how to process and cope with their concerns. Counselors work with people to help them address the underlying reasons behind their mental health concerns, and also help them find ways to overcome them. While the definition of a counselor is the same for people who don’t work in the mental health field, their jobs are very different. Take a look at the list below to learn about some of the different types of counseling programs that the word counselor can refer to.

Mental Health Counseling

Perhaps the most commonly recognized form of counseling is mental health counseling. This form of counseling helps people deal with many different difficulties that can arise in their life by diagnosing and treating mental health issues. This involves talking with people to analyze their concerns, define their problems, and help them to find solutions. Counselors work to devise plans that can help a person overcome their issues, which can involve the help of psychiatrists, social workers, support groups, inpatient treatment services, or prescription medications. Licensed counselors work to help people in an array of counseling methods, including the following:

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  • Couples Counseling/Marriage Counseling

This type of counseling involves working with a couple who are in a romantic relationship together and desire to talk through their conflicts, feelings, struggles, and concerns as it relates to their relationship or their marriage. These types of sessions involve both partners attending sessions together, at the same time, where there is an opportunity for both people in the relationship to hear each other’s concerns and practice communicating in a safe, neutral, supportive environment. Often times, those who are attending couples counseling/marriage counseling will also have their own individual therapist outside of these sessions for couples.

  • Family Counseling

Family therapy is a type of counseling that works to help the members of a family be able to communicate with each other better. It can include the entire family, or just the members that are open to family therapy, and still be effective in either case. Family therapists are trained to help families forge deeper connections with each other in order to overcome stressful events that are either over with or still ongoing. Family therapy can be between spouses or partners, parents, and children, or even more extended family members such as parents. It is an especially helpful treatment for families that have a member that is dealing with substance abuse or mental health issue. Family therapy can help members deal with a substance abuse problem as a whole, while the affected member seeks some type of residential treatment. Family therapy can also help provide coping mechanisms for families dealing with a serious mental health issue, in addition to individual counseling for the affected family member.

  • Substance Abuse Counseling

Substance abuse counseling helps people to deal with a substance abuse problem. These therapists specialize in helping people that have a chemical dependency on drugs or alcohol. By working with a substance abuse counselor, a person can learn why they developed a substance abuse problem, any underlying mental health concerns that could be contributing to their dependency, and also provide them with ways to cope with their issues in order to overcome their addiction.

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  • Trauma/Abuse Counseling

Abuse counseling is a type of counseling that helps people to deal with instances of abuse in their life. Abuse is defined as any act that is meant to exert power over another person, and it can be mental as well as physical. Abuse counseling is meant to address the psychological problems that can come from experiencing abuse, including trauma. Survivors of abuse typically have lingering effects associated with their abuse, especially if it was sustained over a long period of time. Abuse counseling helps to address issues of anger, self-doubt, trust concerns, anxiety, and flashbacks, among other trauma symptoms. Abuse counselors help survivors of abuse work through their problems to overcome them so that they can move forward to more healthy habits and more integrated life. Abuse counseling is also effective for people who engage in self-harming activities as a result of their trauma.

Other Types Of Counseling

Not all counselors work to solve mental health issues. There are other types of licensed counselors whose jobs still involve helping people by offering advice and guidance. Here are a few of the most common examples:

  • Guidance Counseling

Typically offered in a K-12 school setting, guidance counselors are an important member of the school staff. Guidance counselors are responsible for helping students to choose classes, as well as to help them apply to colleges. They also often serve to help students develop social and emotional skills to help them cope with school, make and keep friends, and be well-prepared for the more rigorous requirements of college life.

  • Camp Counseling

When it comes to running camps for children, there are many different people that must be involved in keeping everyone safe and engaged. Camp counselors are responsible for supervising children while they are at camp, as well as coming up with fun, age-appropriate activities to keep kids busy. Camp counselors often help kids learn how to do things like swimming, camping, hiking, and other various outdoor activities. While this career path doesn’t require any sort of degree, it does require a desire and aptitude for working with children.

  • Health Counseling

Health and wellness counselors provide people with health-related counseling. This area of counseling involves providing people with the tools and motivation they need to better their health, usually in relation to their physical health. This can include losing weight, developing a healthier diet, quitting smoking, and even providing tactics to reduce stress. A health counselor is concerned with helping people to make their overall health better to improve their quality of life by developing healthier habits

  • Legal Counseling

A legal counsel is someone that studies or practices law. This often is used as another way to describe an attorney or a lawyer, but it can also refer to anyone who gives legal advice to or represents someone in court proceedings. While in the US, it is spelled counselor, counsellor is the preferred spelling in most other countries. Whether you spell it counselor or counsellor, the job boils down to the same thing. Legal counselors are professionally trained to work in the legal field and represent private citizens, corporations, nonprofits, and other entities during legal proceedings to ensure they understand their rights. Most legal counsel specializes in a particular area of law, such as family law, criminal defense, or bankruptcy law. Some, however, chose to practice general law and take clients with a broad range of legal concerns.

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We hope that this article has helped you to learn the difference between the words councilor and counselor, whether you need a councilor or counselor, as well as the different types of counseling that are available. If you are trying to work through a mental health issue and need the guidance of a counselor, consider taking advantage of our online therapy options here at ReGain. With ReGain, we offer convenient online sessions that can be done from your computer, tablet, or phone, whenever it best suits your schedule. Our trained and licensed therapists are here to help you work through whatever concerns you may be experiencing. Counseling is a great way to learn how to cope with your mental health struggles or work through trauma or addiction. Contact us today to learn how we can help you on your path to mental wellness.


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