A mental health counselor is a loose and general term for a licensed professional who provides counseling services for a short term. Many focus on specific areas, like a substance abuse counselor trains to handle additional issues. Counselors often work in group therapy sessions.
A clinician is also a general term for any mental health person who provides clinical services. Clinical services can include medication consultations and therapy as well as psychological assessment and diagnosis.
The key difference between a counselor and a clinician is that clinicians look for disturbances in a patient’s mental health, and counselors provide guidance and advice. Clinicians work with patients that have serious mental pathology problems.
Finally, a therapist is a general term that can include psychologists, social workers, and other licensed mental health professionals. They obtain training in a specific field. Patients usually work with therapists for longer periods than they would a counselor or clinician.
Counselors, clinicians, and therapists must all have at least a bachelor’s degree and licensing from the state, but most have master’s or doctoral degrees. The state where you live will also affect credential requirements.
For example, someone can be a behavioral counselor with a bachelor’s degree in psychology if they practice in Connecticut. However, a behavioral counselor in California needs a bachelor’s degree and an additional two-year certification.
A licensed professional counselor costs the least, typically $20 to $80 a session, because they have the lowest professional credentials. Clinicians and therapists may charge $60 to $120 per session. Mental health professionals in big cities, like New York and Los Angeles, may have higher rates. An online psychologist or therapist may have lower hourly fees.