Counseling and therapy are often considered to be one in the same, and the terms are typically used interchangeably. However, there is a key difference between the two. Counseling is often a short-term approach to a psychological issue, whereas psychotherapy assesses the client’s cognitive process to a greater degree in order to address a range of psychological issues. Thus, the goal of counseling is usually to confront and deal with a specific psychological issue that has a clear endpoint.
Psychotherapy on the other hand takes a more exploratory approach, educating the client about themselves and others. This is particularly helpful when the goal is to better equip the client to deal troublesome patterns of thoughts and behaviors, or how to navigate their way around challenging relationships. In the case of mental illness, psychotherapy can also be used to guide the client to an understanding of how to manage their illness in a way that allows for a degree of normalcy in their daily life.
It is not unusual however to have more than one mental health professional assist you with your particular condition. For instance, you may need to periodically visit a psychiatrist or a primary care physician to prescribe medication for your condition, while meeting with a psychotherapist weekly to actively address daily challenges and issues. Depending on the specific issue, there are numerous approaches to psychotherapy that may best suited for the need. The American Psychological Association has segmented these approaches into five broad categories.