Counselling, Therapy & Psychiatry – What’s the difference?

By | March 1, 2023 | |

When it comes to mental health and well-being, Counselling, Therapy, and Psychiatry share the same ultimate goal – to help individuals resolve and improve their emotional and psychological well-being. That’s why they are often used interchangeably, but all three fields have different focuses and approaches that distinguish them.

Understanding the differences between these three fields is important to decide which one is right for you or a loved one. In this blog, we will discuss the definitions, types, and benefits of counselling, therapy, and psychiatry, and we will also compare their differences.


Counselling is a type of therapy that focuses on specific issues or problems through conversational techniques. The Counsellor, a trained professional, works with clients to help them identify and address specific emotional, psychological, or relationship problems by providing support, guidance, and insights.

Once the client gets clarity about their problem, the counsellor helps the client to develop different approaches, strategies, and coping mechanisms to overcome the problem the client is facing.

There are different approaches to counselling, some of the well-known approaches include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Humanistic/Client-Centred Counseling, Mindfulness Counseling, etc.

Depending on needs, there are different types of counselling available. Such as individual Counselling, Couples Counselling, Family or Group Counselling.

Process of Counselling

The counselling process begins with an initial evaluation session in which the counsellor gets information about the client’s past and current condition. The counsellor then works with the client to define goals and develop a treatment plan. The client is then scheduled for regular sessions, during which the client and counsellor work collaboratively to explore the client’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours and to develop the tools to help address and overcome the client’s problems.


Therapy is a broad term that covers a variety of methods and treatments. It usually identifies and addresses more in-depth psychological issues.

With the basic objective of bringing out long-term changes in thought and behaviour, therapy may focus on the past, present, and future, as it helps the patient in understanding events properly and develops insights and perspectives in order to solve their current problem.

Therapy enables the client to understand their own psychological and emotional issues and find ways to manage them. A therapist helps the client to become more aware of their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. Therapists listen to the client’s concerns, provide feedback, and ask questions to help the patient understand their problems.

There are various approaches used in therapy. Some of the most common forms include Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Psychoanalysis, and many others. The therapist may suggest going through one or more approaches depending on the need of the client.

Process of Therapy

Similar to counselling, the therapy process also begins with an initial evaluation to determine the client’s condition, challenges, and goals in order to pick the best approach. The therapist sets up a comfortable environment and helps the client explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to identify patterns leading to the issue. A personalized treatment plan is developed, which includes strategies and psychological methods that can help the client to resolve their issue. Then the therapist tracks the client’s progress regularly and provides feedback and guidance as needed. This process helps the individual to become self-sufficient once their goals are achieved.


Psychiatry is a medical field that focuses on diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental illnesses or disorders. The causes of these illnesses can be biological, psychological, or environmental. These illnesses range from mild to severe.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialise in diagnosing and treating mental health illnesses. They diagnose and treat mental, emotional and behavioural disorders such as Depression, Anxiety, or bipolar disorder to mention but a few.

They develop treatment plans that often include a combination of therapy and medication, with the goal of improving the individual’s quality of life and ability to function.

Process of Psychiatry

The process of working with a psychiatrist typically begins with a diagnostic evaluation. The psychiatrist thoroughly evaluates the patient’s mental health history, current symptoms, and other factors. Based on this information, the psychiatrist diagnoses and creates a treatment plan. The treatment plan may include medications, psychotherapy, or both.

Then the psychiatrist schedules regular visits with the patient to track the progress and make changes to the treatment according to the needs. Medication doses are adjusted depending on the individual patient’s condition, progress and requirements.

Differences between Counseling, Therapy, & Psychiatry

While counselling, therapy, and psychiatry involve talking with a mental health professional, they have different approaches and focuses.

Counselling is focused on specific issues or problems and is typically time limited. With the help of counselling, you can deal with mental and emotional distress, such as stress issues, and build healthier lifelong habits and coping strategies for different situations.

Therapy is often focused on deeper-rooted issues and aims to achieve long-term changes in thinking and behaviour. In easier terms, therapy is a long-term form of counselling. It helps individuals understand their emotions, thoughts, behaviour, and ways to manage them. Therapy can be very useful in dealing with depression, anxiety, or trauma. Therapy can help you be more self-aware and have multiple perspectives.

Psychiatry is a medical field focused on treating mental illnesses and involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Illnesses can be biological, psychological, or environmental and can level from mild to severe. Also, only a psychiatrist can prescribe medications, not a counsellor or therapist.

It’s important to consider each option based on your needs and goals. If you are experiencing a specific problem or issue, such as stress management or relationship difficulties, counselling may be a great fit for you. But if you have a history of trauma or depression, then therapy or psychiatry may be more appropriate.

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