Differences Between a Mental Health Counselor and a School Counselor

Last Updated: June 1, 2024

It’s no secret that the United States is facing a mental health crisis. Rates of anxiety and depression are rising, and children in the elementary school age are being affected.

With such a high need for mental health services, it is essential to understand the difference between mental health counselors and school counselors – and which type of professional is best suited to help your child.

Mental Health Counselor Vs. School Counselor

Mental health counselors are licensed professionals who have completed a master’s degree in counseling or related field. They work with families, groups and individuals to address mental health concerns. School counselors, on the other hand, are typically certified teachers who have earned an advanced degree in school counseling or a related field.

While both types of counselors can provide valuable services, there are some key differences when deciding which professional is suitable for your family.

Differences in Job Duties

Mental health counselors and school counselors generally have different job duties. Mental health counselors typically offer individual and group counseling, as well as crisis intervention services. They may also conduct psychological assessments and develop treatment plans.

School counselors usually work with students to help them overcome academic, social, and behavioral challenges. They may also guide post-secondary education and career options.

Mental health counseling is a type of counseling that focuses on the emotional and psychological well-being of the client. School counseling, on the other hand, is a type of counseling that focuses on the educational and social development of students.

Mental health counselors diagnose and treat mental health disorders, provide therapy, and help people manage their lives. They often work with clients struggling with depression, anxiety, addiction, and trauma.

School counselors, on the other hand, work with students who are struggling in school for various reasons, such as academic difficulties, social problems, or family issues.

Mental health counselors work with families, groups and individuals to address mental health issues. This can include anxiety, depression, trauma, and substance abuse. Mental health counselors often have a more clinical focus than school counselors.

As a school counselor, you will work with students in an educational setting. Your job will be to help them with academic planning, personal/social development, and college/career readiness.

School counselors also work with students to help them deal with personal problems and make decisions about their future. You will also work with parents and teachers to ensure each student has the support they need to succeed.

Differences in Educational Requirements

Mental health counselors and school counselors have different educational requirements. Mental health counselors need at least a master’s degree in mental health counseling. Mental health counselors also need to be licensed to practice.

School counselors, on the other hand, typically have a degree in school counseling, education or psychology. Some school counselors may need to be certified by the state where they work.

Differences in Work Environment

When you are working as a mental health counselor, you can expect many different work environments. You might be in an office setting, or you might be working in a clinic. But when you are a school counselor, your work environment will be limited to schools.

This isn’t to say that school counselors don’t deal with mental health issues – of course, they do. But the focus of their work is more on academic and social issues. They work with students to help them succeed in school, and they also provide support to teachers and parents.

Mental health counselors have a more diverse range of responsibilities. Not only do they work with students, but they also work with families and adults. They might provide therapy or counseling or guidance and support through coaching or consultation.

When you become a mental health counselor, you can expect to work with various clients. This can range from individuals struggling with their mental health to couples and families dealing with relationship issues.

On the other hand, if you decide to become a school counselor, your clientele will be narrower in scope. You will primarily be working with students with academic or behavioral difficulties. However, you may also have the opportunity to work with parents and staff members at the school where you’re employed.

Mental health counselors usually work during the day, seeing clients from 9 am to 5 pm or so. This is because many people who need counseling are working professionals who can only come in during the day.

School counselors, on the other hand, usually work late into the evening and on weekends since their clients are students who need assistance outside of the school day. So, if you are looking for a career that has more flexible hours, then counseling might not be the right choice for you.

Are School Counselors Mental Health Professionals?

There is a lot of debate about whether or not school counselors are mental health professionals. On the one hand, school counselors are trained to work with children and adolescents in an educational setting. On the other hand, some argue that school counselors are not mental health professionals because they do not have the same training as psychologists or psychiatrists.

So, what is the answer? Are school counselors mental health professionals?

The answer is complicated. School counselors have the training to work with students from a mental health perspective. However, their job is primarily focused on providing academic and career guidance. While they may be able to give some basic counseling and support, they are not equipped to deal with more serious mental health issues. For that, you would need to see a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.

What are The Disadvantages of Being a Mental Health Counselor?

There are few disadvantages to being a mental health counselor. First, the job can be emotionally draining. Counselors often work with clients dealing with difficult life circumstances, and it can be challenging to hear about their daily struggles.

Additionally, counselors may have difficulty maintaining a healthy work-life balance, as the job demands can make it challenging to take time off or relax outside work. It can be tough to find work since there aren’t that many mental health counseling positions. Also, the pay isn’t all that great.

Finally, mental health counseling is a relatively new field, which means that there is still much research needed to establish best practices. This can make the field feel constantly changing and uncertain, which can be frustrating for counselors who want to feel confident in their work.

What are The Disadvantages of Being a School Counselor?

There are a few disadvantages of being a school counselor. One is that you may have to work with children who have behavioral problems. This can be challenging and frustrating at times.

Another disadvantage is that you may not have as much control over your caseload as you would if you were working in a private practice setting.

Finally, you may have to deal with budget cuts and other financial constraints that can impact your ability to provide services to students.


So, what is the difference between mental health counselors and school counselors? Mental health counselors typically focus on diagnosing and treating mental health disorders, while school counselors focus on helping students deal with personal and social issues that may affect their academic success.

Both types of counselors can play a valuable role in helping people manage their mental health or deal with personal or social issues, but it is important to know the difference so you can choose the right counselor for you or your child.

Related Reading

Copyright © 2024 PsychologySchoolGuide.net. All Rights Reserved. Program outcomes can vary according to each institution's curriculum and job opportunities are not guaranteed. This site is for informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional help.