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Differences Between Counseling and Psychotherapy

Differences in psychotherapy and counseling are viewed mostly by the individual practitioner. There may be some overlap in both professional approaches. The following, although not comprehensive, are some general characteristics to provide an understanding between the two disciplines.


  • Deals with the more serious problems of mental health.
  • Is past oriented.
  • Emphasizes insight more than change.
  • Requires the therapist to conceal himself rather than reveal values and feelings.
  • Requires the therapist to assume the role of the expert rather than join with the client in his treatment.
  • Is a long term relationship, to range from 20 -40 sessions over a period of 6 months to 2 years.
  • Provided in both in-patient and out-patient settings.


  • Tends to be short-term, ranging form 8-12 sessions over several months.
  • Most often provided in an out-patient setting.
  • Deals with personal, social, vocational, and educational concerns.
  • Clients are usually considered to be in the “normal” range of functioning and just have some adjustment, developmental or situational concerns.
  • Counseling takes place in a structured setting.
  • Counseling is a process in which clients learn to make better decisions and formulate new ways of behaving, feeling and thinking.
  • Some subspecialties are: school counseling, marriage and family counseling and career counseling.
  • A practitioner must complete a required course of study on either the master or doctoral level to be licensed or certified as a professional counselor.
  • The counselor is more active, differing to just listening to problems.

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