What is the Difference Between a Licensed Counselor and a Therapist in California?

Counseling and therapy are two distinct professions that require different levels of education and training. Counselors typically have a master's degree in counseling or school counseling, while therapists usually have a doctorate in psychology. To become licensed, counselors must pass an exam, while psychologists must complete supervised experience, internship hours, and an exam. When considering a career in counseling or psychology, it is important to understand the differences between the two professions.

Counselors work with individuals or groups, and many professionals draw on a variety of experiences to connect with patients. Therapists are trained to connect with clients. To work as a professional counselor, a state license is also required. All states require counselors to pass an exam before they can receive a license. The terms “therapist” and “counselor” are often used interchangeably, but they are also sometimes used to highlight the level of education or accreditation.

An accredited therapist may have had more extensive training and have broader credentials. A counselor may not be accredited and have a bachelor's degree but not a master's degree. Of course, a counselor can have a graduate degree and a separate license, but simply prefer the words “counselor” and “counseling” to “therapist and “therapy.”Most clinical, counseling, and research psychologists require a minimum of a doctorate. Most doctoral programs take five to seven years to complete.

For licensed professional counselors, they must have a master's degree in counseling or school counseling, which may require two to three years of study. The process for counselors is often similar. As therapists develop their careers, what they specialize in has as much to do with what interests them and where they choose to develop their talents as it does with their original degree and training. This allows them to offer individual counseling on substance use disorders, just as other types of therapists offer individual counseling on mental health. It is possible to obtain a license as a psychologist at the master's level, but in most states, these licenses only allow psychologists to work in certain specialized positions and not in private offices. When deciding between a counseling or psychology career, keep in mind that psychologists require more education, some supervised experience, internship hours, and an exam to become licensed in most states.

Heath Teruel
Heath Teruel

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