What is the difference between mental health counseling and therapy? This is a question I sometimes hear from clients. The short answer is that there in no difference between the two terms. Therapy comes from the Greek word which means “to heal.” That is a nice way to look at the therapy process. It is a process of healing that allows someone to let go of the past, so that they may become the person they are meant to be in the present. In my many years of doing counseling, I find one of the greatest blocks from a person functioning at their best level in the present is rooted in their inability to let go of past experiences. Healing is needed to let go.
Counseling is a term that has it’s roots in “giving someone advice or giving counsel.” As a counselor, we generally do not tell clients what to do, unless they are in a situation of imminent danger. A Counselor is one who guides another in a direction that will help them solve their problems. Healing, changing attitudes, changing thoughts, letting go of emotional pain are usually part of this process. There is so much overlap between the terms counseling and therapy, they are almost synonymous.
One area of therapy or counseling that is challenging, yet fulfilling, is marriage counseling or relationship therapy. The challenge in marriage therapy is that you are dealing with the processes of two individuals interacting with one another. If both people are willing to do their own process, often the problems in the relationship take care of themselves. “Stop focusing on the other, and focus on your attitudes, reactions and behaviors,” is a message I repeat over and over with couples. When each person does this, the results are usually very good.
Whether it is called therapy or counseling, both are life giving investments that have a lifetime of benefits.