Relationship Counselor Vs. Therapist: What's The Difference And Which One Is Right For Us?

By Mary Elizabeth Dean

Updated August 27, 2019

It's time. You're seeking help with those persistent problems in your life, but you aren't the only part of the equation. You and your partner understand that you can't change each other, so you've begun your search for a third person: a counselor or a therapist.

It's challenging to determine which services you'll need exactly. These professionals don't have their peculiarities listed in a convenient format for you to read. What you'll find is a list of supported treatments and what their professional process may be. Beyond the dynamic of choosing a person to share your vulnerabilities with, what else should we know before choosing a therapist or a counselor?

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Seeking professional help can cause a range of reactions. There are good and bad therapists, and the same goes for counselors. The more preferences you define for yourself, the higher the chance you may have with a successful session.

Counselor vs. Therapist

The line that separates these two professions has skewed over time. Counselors involve a professional practice requiring degrees has also become synonymous with a literal counselor, such as life coaches, guidance counselors, etc.

In most cases, you'll find that the terminology for counselors and therapists are used interchangeably.

To be more specific, counselors treat their patients more on the individual level, whereas therapists operate based on clients' interactions with group dynamics.

Counselors Can Treat The Following Issues:

  • Marital problems
  • Anger issues
  • Self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Grief and loss
  • Behavioral issues
  • Substance abuse and addiction

Therapists can provide the following services:

  • Couples therapy
  • Marriage counseling
  • Group therapy (adults and children)
  • Therapy for struggling teens
  • Family therapy

Counselors and therapists can have differences in offered services, and both these professions may serve as indicators of education.

Each state has a different classification, but in general, therapists are professionals with a master's degree versus counselors having a bachelor's degree. That isn't to say that both of these professions may have more or less than the degree requirements in the given field as the field is varied and vast.

The most crucial distinction between a counselor vs. therapist is their method of practice.

Counselors will use a process to help a patient cope with the mental and emotional stressors in their lives. A counselor finds solutions to problems through a more methodic process and adjusting improper behavior into healthier and more 'correct' response. Like mentioned earlier, the intention is to focus on your ability to change on the more individual level.

Therapy will use your feeling, mood, and behavior to discover more from your ways of thinking. This intention is to find some meaning behind the initial impressions of negative feedback. Therapy is less focused on correcting your behaviors, but more of how you interact with the dynamics of a social group.

A counselor vs. therapist definition will be dependent on who you may ask. These therapies will overlap in several ways, which blurs the distinction between them.

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You'll want to have a particular goal in mind when you seek help.

Therapy and counseling are umbrella terms that encompass several specialized fields. A therapist may have a practice in relationships to cover the clients that they may need, but some specialize in it.

There are even professionals who offer their services digitally.

There is no limitation to the services. Simple phone calls, video sessions, in-person interactions are all encompassed through this business of helpful guidance.

Each practice differs in several ways. Seeking therapy for deep psychological troubles can be beneficial, but that practice is better left to psychologists. There is a correct approach to solving your problems that only you are aware of. It takes an extensive amount of time for any given person to understand enough about you. Speaking to an improperly chosen person can result in wasted time, but above all, expensive bills.

Several practices take an explanation in itself, but here we describe therapy and counseling geared to specifically relationships.

What Is Relationship Counseling?

Life can be difficult, and when difficulties arise, there can be an effect on your relationship. This strain may cause arguments or full-blown fights. Life will always have its challenges, and so too will your relationships.

Relationship counseling has its place by giving you a more objective look into the patterns in your relationships. There will be problems that persist through time, and having a counselor help will be a massive benefit towards your relationship.

Like we've mentioned earlier, counseling is professional help that will help you on an individual level, but during a relationship counseling the focus is just the same. Individualized challenges need guidance to look beyond negative or routine thinking with your partners. This way, you can adjust yourself to allow healthier behaviors for a healthier relationship. Being in a relationship can have us guessing whose correct. It may require the intervention of a third person to point out destructive behaviors for us to change. A professionally trained opinion can serve as reliable guidance for any problems a relationship may have.

A relationship counselor's job is to focus on more objective communication between both parties. As a fundamental principle of therapy and counseling, the counselor shouldn't be telling anyone anything. A counselor serves as a guide of communication, and their actions will come in the form of solidified goals for you to follow. But these goals are what you make for yourself, using your efforts to improve.

This type of counseling is relatively common among couples, marriage counseling being the most common type of relationship counseling. Like relationship counseling, relationship therapy also focuses on objective communication, but with a different process of curating growth.

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What Is Relationship Therapy?

The process may seem similar, but it can be entirely different than relationship counseling.

Relationship therapy focuses more on the 'why's' of our behavior. This process may involve digging into previous fights, trickling down to the root of behavior that formed the relationship as a whole. This therapy differs from counseling, as counseling focuses more on the 'how's.' Counseling is more problems versus solutions, whereas therapy is of understanding causes.

Much like relationship counseling, each session will cultivate the objective communication between you and your partner. This allows a more fluid interaction that doesn't fall under the more routine behaviors each conversation may have.

Relationship therapy may seem like individual therapy, but it does have some distinction.

In relationship therapy, the intent is to understand your role and dynamics that you've built with another person but seeks improvements on you as an individual. The behaviors and habits that we may have might not even exist outside of our relationships. It's the job of a therapist to point out such behaviors without our knowing. The most common type of relationship therapy is couples therapy.

Being deeply ingrained with another person's life mingles and mixes behaviors without our knowing. Identifying such causes could result in possible solutions. Being aware of troubling behaviors is the initial awareness that allows change. The role of a therapist is to identify these root causes and to identify them as unfavorable.

A counselor vs. therapist approach can be different in slight ways, but it's often the subtleties in our behaviors that cause a flurry of later problems in our relationships. There is no greater testament to small differences having significant impacts.

Conclusion

A counselor vs. therapist can be a mixed bag. What you'll find in one profession, you'll most likely find in another. If you find yourself to be a solution-oriented person, who's seeking fixes in your relationships, then you'll want to head towards the counselor route.

Counselors seek the 'how's' that identify the problems that cause harm and figuring out how to better ourselves on an individual level to fix them. If you find yourself focused on the meaning behind our actions, you'll want to approach the therapy route.

Therapists focus on the 'why's' to understand the reasoning behind our behaviors. Each behavior we may have will cause a reaction in our relationships. Positive behaviors get reinforced through positive responses, but some reinforced behavior may initially be helpful but is in unhealthy in the long-term.

The obsessive commitment may seem like an infatuation at first but becomes suffocating later on in the relationship.

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Therapy seeks to identify the foundational behavior that causes the manifestation of current harmful actions. No matter which service you'll choose, some professionals have built a lifetime of knowledge to help you. No matter which service you'll want, be open to change and allow for a professional to serve as the backdrop to your problems. Relationship problems may seem endless, but to find answers to those problems would relieve yourself of significant stress. At times, it may seem that a relationship has no chance of getting past certain obstacles. But, to adapt and change for the benefit of another person is the greatest form of connection that we can build in our relationships.

Counseling vs. therapy is hard to determine what will help, but in the end, seeking help shows that you're willing to change for the better.


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