We often hear the terms ‘counsellor’ and ‘therapist’ when referring to professionals in the mental health field. Although these terms are usually used interchangeably, these two professions are not the same. Yet, both professions assist their clients to work on their mental health and life challenges. 

Below I will highlight some key differences between ‘counselor’ and ‘therapist’ to clarify which type of professional offers the right treatment program for the specific client.

What is counseling?What is psychotherapy?

Counselling refers to the process of a warranted counsellor who meets the client to discuss certain issues and challenges which would be causing difficulties or distress to either the individual and/or the family system.

Psychotherapy is a scientific discipline that includes various approaches based on well-established theory, methodology and research. These approaches would involve psychological treatments that range from emotional and relationship difficulties to more chronic disorders. 

A safe and confidential space is provided for the client to be able to disclose and discuss sensitive information. 
The counsellor focuses on building a trusting relationship with the client, so the client is able to apply this in their day to day relationships.

Similar to counselling, the relationship between psychotherapist and client is crucial. The psychotherapist offers a space which is private and secure so the individual can share and explore the experiences being brought. 
Research confirms how the therapeutic relationship is a vital factor which influences the outcome of psychotherapy.

Counselling focuses on increasing the individual’s self-awareness while allowing self-reflection on feelings, thoughts and behaviors. This helps the client to have more clarity about their situation while they develop their own meaning of life. 
Clients going through issues such as lack of emotional regulation, relationship issues, identity issues and other realities, can be supported by a counsellor to process such difficulties. 
Counselling supports the individual to reach out to other sources of support such as family and friends so they can feel understood.

Psychotherapy allows clients with psychological disorders to find a way of improving their quality of life. 
Individuals who seek psychotherapy may do so for specific reasons such as eating disorders, past traumas, self-harm, suicidal ideations, post traumatic stress, obsessive compulsive disorders and phobias. 
Some may seek support if they are experiencing ongoing feelings of depression, difficulties with concentrating, work dissatisfaction and being in an unhappy relationship.

Counselling is not a short process and this depends on the goals set during the sessions. The counsellor may use different techniques and exercises to match with the individual’s needs. 
The aim of counselling is supporting and guiding the individual to come to terms with the issues being presented while finding healthy ways of coping.

Similarly, psychotherapy may vary in length. Some approaches focus on resolving symptoms or work directly on behaviors and cognitions. 
Others may aim towards a change in personality, emotional development or to support the client in becoming more aware of their situation. Psychotherapy is essentially a talking therapy, although it may incorporate the use of different methods such as art, music, and body movement.

Above we have seen some similarities and differences between a ‘counsellor’ and a ‘psychotherapist’. Choosing the right professional depends on the type of treatment one is seeking, which can have a significant impact on the overall experience and outcome goals. Moreover, it is important to seek a professional who is warranted and regulated.

Charlot Cauchi is a Gestalt Psychotherapist at Willingness. He has experience with adult clients with mental health difficulties, anxiety, depression, loss, trauma, stress and relational issues.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.


European Association for Psychotherapy. (2022, January 16). About psychotherapy. https://www.europsyche.org/about-psychotherapy/what-is-psychotherapy/

Malta Association for the Counselling profession. (2022,January 16). What is Counselling?  https://macpmalta.org/counselling/what-is-counselling/