Counsellor vs Therapist: What's the Difference Between a Counsellor and Therapist?
Jan 23, 2021
In everyday usage, the words counsellor and therapist are often used interchangeably. People might say “I’m going to see my counsellor today” or “I find it helpful when I’m able to talk through things with my therapist.” Often, both of these terms tend to be linked to mental health.
When thinking about the difference between a counsellor and therapist there can be some subtle differences. In general, counselling is often more short-term, more focused on current issues, might involve more advice giving, and tends be focused on surface level concerns.
The term therapist is often linked with psychotherapist or someone who performs the controlled act of psychotherapy (at least here in Ontario). What that means is that these professionals often work with clients in a deeper way. Those who practice psychotherapy may help clients address long term issues, perhaps over a longer duration. Some of the challenges clients might be seeking support with would be related to their mood, thoughts, behaviours, etc., which are negatively impacting their life and functioning.
In Ontario, only someone who is registered with one of the following 6 regulatory colleges can provide psychotherapy and only those within the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario can call themselves a psychotherapist. The 6 regulatory colleges which can perform psychotherapy are: Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, College of Psychologists of Ontario, College of Nurses of Ontario, and the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario.
Insurance companies are more likely to prefer regulated professionals such as those registered with one of the colleges I noted above as these professionals have ethical standards they must adhere to and are governed by their college (which helps protect you the client). You can call your insurance company to find which professionals are covered under your health plan.
In the end, although there are some differences between a counsellor vs therapist, these professionals are often one in the same. If seeking out professional support, the important decision you have to make is finding someone who you feel is the right fit for you and your counselling/therapy journey. -Adam
Adam Koenig is a Registered Psychotherapist with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. He is also a Canadian Certified Counsellor with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Associated and is Certified in Thanatology through the Association for Death Education and Counseling.