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Mental Health

Psychotherapy vs. Therapy: 3 Important Differences

Understanding psychotherapy vs. therapy can enable you to choose the ideal treatment for you. The terms ‘therapy’ and ‘psychotherapy’ are often used interchangeably and synonymously, but there is a slight distinguishable difference between the two.

Psychotherapy is typically prescribed in response to mental health conditions such as:

This treatment is sometimes used together with psychotropic medication.

However, in actual practice, there is a great overlap of bothering the therapies. On the other hand, therapy counseling is wellness-oriented, providing insights and learning how to overcome problems and challenges effectively.

Psychotherapy vs. Therapy Counseling

The same therapist can provide both psychotherapies vs. therapy counselling, but psychotherapy requires more skill than counseling therapy.

A psychotherapist is qualified to provide counseling, but a counselor may not possess adequate training to conduct psychotherapy. Defining psychotherapy vs. therapy can help in choosing the right treatment for you.


It is a longer-term treatment focusing on gaining more insight into chronic problems and emotional issues. Psychotherapy addresses the core issue or the root cause of the problems to treat the present conditions to cause lasting changes and personal growth.

It focuses on solving past problems that may be causing a problem in the present.

Psychotherapy is used in the treatment of chronic or recurrent mental health conditions. It uses long-term therapy in a continuous or intermittent pattern over the years with a focus on the feelings and experiences of a person.

There is an in-depth focus on the patient’s internal thoughts or feelings. It also uses personality or emotional intelligence tests to understand the person and provide better care.

Psychotherapy is a broad term that encompasses several types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

psychotherapy vs therapy
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Therapy Counseling

It involves two people working with ‘talk therapy‘ to solve a problem. It is a form of advice-giving that is used in conjunction with several other fields. For example, career planning and financial planning are both counseling types.

Anyone in the role of advice-giving can claim to be a counselor. Counseling is a term also used to refer to a psychotherapist. In mental health, the terms ‘counseling therapy is a brief treatment with a primary focus on behavior targeting a particular problem or symptom.’

It offers suggestions and advice on how to deal with the issue.

It focuses on present problems and specific situations or behavioral actions. It involves short-term talk therapy to support guidance and educate people to identify and find solutions.

Therapy offers guidance and support to individuals to help them find ways to better their lives and deal with changes and adversity. Several counselors include marriage and family therapists, addiction & substance abuse counselors, and grief counselors.

Similarities Between Psychotherapy and Therapy

  • There is a safe, healing, and therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the individual in counseling and psychotherapy.
  • These therapies have the effect of working on a wide range of ages, from children to adults.
  • The process is similar in understanding a person’s feelings and behaviors and addressing the issues to improve their life.

Differences Between Psychotherapy and Therapy

There are several differences between psychotherapy and therapy.

1. Professional Degree

A mental health professional with advanced degrees like a doctoral degree in Psychology or PsyD can provide psychotherapy, and the same person can also offer talk therapy.

Meanwhile, counseling therapists may or may not be mental health counselors trained in psychology or psychiatry. Depending on their profession or advice-giving role, a counselor should be prepared in their designed field.

But a counselor to work with patients with mental illness or to treat a patient with psychological counseling services needs to have a master’s degree in psychology or psychiatry and may also be a medical doctor trained to provide medical advice.

2. Duration of Treatment

Another key difference between psychotherapy and therapy is the short-term duration of treatment in counseling therapy versus the long-term treatment of psychotherapy.

Counseling therapy lasts from 6 weeks to 6 months, while psychotherapy is provided continuously or intermittently over many years.

3. Nature of Therapy

Counseling therapy focuses on the action and behavior of the person that may be causing problems or specific situations. In contrast, psychotherapy brings change to the overall pattern or the big picture of a person’s life with a focus on the feelings and experiences of the person. It uses an in-depth guide on internal thoughts and feelings of core issues of the patient’s past experiences to treat their current chronic and recurrent problems.

In Psychotherapy vs. therapy, psychotherapy is a primary process, while counseling therapy is a secondary process. This refers to the situation where psychotherapy is used as the first approach to a person’s problems, and later counseling is used as a secondary treatment.

For example, if you suffer from depression, your mental health counselor would first look at how depression impacts your life and teach you coping skills to feel better. The qualified mental health professional may also prescribe medications along with psychotherapy.

Choosing between Psychotherapy vs. Therapy

When choosing a mental health service, it is best to learn more about the differences mentioned above and the background of the mental health practitioners, and the method of treatment they use. In this, we have seen the details of psychotherapy vs. therapy.

Above all, the most important step in choosing the right therapist is finding one you can trust the most. It is of utmost importance to find a licensed professional counselor you can trust, as it can play a big role in the therapy provided.

So the selection of a therapist comes down to personal choice. It may also depend on factors like ease of access and insurance coverage.

You may need to make a few prior appointments with mental health professionals to understand which type of treatment is best for you. This helps you understand the mechanisms of treatments provided, know more about the course of treatment, and choose between psychotherapy and therapy for your situation.

When To See A Counselor?

Counseling therapy may be the best option in conditions where your problems are recent, and you know the issues will be short-term. A counselor is a good choice when treating a specific problem.

Counseling therapy helps learn coping skills to manage stressful situations and improve relationships. Coping skills can also help with transitions in life and adjustments that need to be made to accommodate life changes, like divorce, grief, or something simple like a change of place. Coping skills also help with addiction treatment.

A counseling therapist is like a ‘coach’ who guides you and supports learning by recognizing and accepting problems. They also help you formulate a healthy solution for the issues.

counselor and psychotherapist
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When To See A Psychotherapist?

Visit a psychotherapist if the problems have significantly impacted your life and relationships or if you are trying to cope with past trauma.

If you feel certain incidents of your past are causing problems in daily life, psychotherapy can help. Childhood experiences can have an impact on a person throughout their whole life.

In cases where there is childhood trauma, it can cause problems even in adults. That is where psychotherapy can help in treatment.

Psychotherapy is the option if the problems are recurrent or chronic and keep interfering with life. Chronic medical conditions may sometimes cause an imbalance in emotional well-being.

Conditions like cancer or autoimmune diseases can affect a person’s mental health. In such cases, psychotherapy is helpful.

Diagnosed mental health problems like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, schizophrenia, and more are treated with psychotherapy vs. therapy and prescribed medication.

If a treatment method suggested by a counselor hasn’t been too effective or you have not seen any improvement even after actively working on the solutions, a psychotherapist may help better.

Types of Mental Health Professionals

Here is a list of mental health professionals you can consult for psychotherapy or counseling. Your doctor may refer you to any of the following professionals for treatment.

These professionals may also guide you through your treatment in choosing between psychotherapy and therapy.

1. Psychiatrist

Physicians who specialize in mental health diagnose, treat, and prevent mental illnesses are psychiatrists. They can differentiate mental health conditions from other underlying health conditions based on symptoms and medical test reports.

A psychiatrist undergoes training with four years of medical school, 1-year residency, and 3-years of specialized training as a psychiatric resident.

Doctors are licensed to write prescriptions for many mental health disorders like depression, ADHD, or bipolar disorder that may require medication for treatment.

Sometimes medication alone can be enough for treatment. Otherwise, a psychiatrist may also perform psychotherapy or counseling to assist in the course of treatment.

2. Psychologist

A psychology psychologist with a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or PsyD) studies mind and behavior. After graduate school, a clinical psychologist completes an internship of 2 to 3 years for training in treatment methods, behavioral therapy, and psychological theory.

Unlike psychiatrists, licensed psychologists cannot perform medical procedures or write prescriptions but can provide counseling and psychotherapy.

Psychologists may also work in association with a psychiatrist or a medical doctor who provides treatment for mental illness, where the psychologist includes psychotherapy.

3. Licensed Mental Health Counselor

A psychological counselor with a master’s degree in psychology is qualified to evaluate and treat mental health problems. They may use various treatment methods and help you choose an ideal treatment option between psychotherapy and therapy.

4. Clinical Social Worker

They have a master’s degree in social work and are trained to evaluate and treat mental illness. Social workers can provide psychotherapy and also offer case management.

They also advocate for patients and their families and plan for hospital discharge.

5. Mental Health Nurse

Some nurses are specially trained to provide mental health services. Their level of training and certification may determine the type of mental illness they can evaluate and the treatment they may provide.

mental health importance
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Getting Started With Mental Health Treatment

The first step to a better life is identifying the problem. You and those around you need to recognize and accept the concerning issue. Once it has been placed, the next is to find the right therapist.

Finding the right mental health professional is as important as finding the right doctor for your physical therapy. They may help you understand your treatment options and guide you through psychotherapy vs. therapy.

Whether you wish to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist, it is important to do an initial phone call or a visit. Knowing how the therapist works will give you confidence and trust to open yourself up about your problems.

Firstly, talk about why you think you need therapy. They will want to know about your symptoms, your social surroundings, and any past instances that may have been similar and such. This initial conversation is very important as it sets the course for the approach to treatment.

Then, the mental health practitioner will describe the course of the treatment plan—the steps involved and how these steps will take place. Whether the treatment course includes group therapy, medications, or talk therapy, your therapist will detail the methods. They may also let you know which is best for you, psychotherapy vs. therapy.

In the End

These have been the differences and similarities between psychotherapy and therapy for you to understand the treatments better and make a wise choice for a good life.

You may choose psychotherapy or counseling for your treatment. Still, it is essential to remember that you are the consumer, and it is okay to experiment with different therapies to find what is best for you.

Mental health is essential for well-being, and awareness of the different types of mental health treatments and who to go to for help is also equally important. Though often overlooked, mental health is important for a happy and good life.

Read more from us here.

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  • Apeksha soni

    Apeksha is a dedicated health writer and advocate, committed to sharing valuable information and empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their well-being. Apeksha is pursuing B.Tech in Computer Science. She delves into a wide range of topics, including nutrition, fitness, mental health, preventive care, and alternative therapies.

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