What is the difference between counseling and advice? 

This article will discuss what is the main difference between counseling, and giving advice. It will explain why counselors will often not give advice, and how counseling can help you differently than giving advice.

What is the difference between counseling and advice? 

Although people may not realize there are essential differences between counseling and advice-giving. Anyone can give you advice, it can be your friends, family member, or a hairdresser, but when advice is given, it is usually done considering the person’s personal history.

For example, if you discover your husband is having an affair, and you decide to talk to a friend about it and ask for advice, it will be likely that your friend will tell you what to do based on their beliefs, and their personal experiences have been on the matter.

So if they have dealt with infidelity before, and they decided to end the relationship and feel like that is what worked for them, they may tell you that this is what you should do. But if they regret not giving this relationship another try, they may say that this is what you should do.

But when you are discussing matters with a counselor, differently than what sometimes the movies may show, they won’t give you a proper answer as to what you should do, and why you should do it. The counselor will most likely try to ask you more questions so you can answer the question you brought to them.

Some people may have trouble dealing with the difference between the two. They may want a quick answer, and a quick way to fix the problem they see themselves in. They may feel so helpless that they will often look for advice. 

But counseling will often work based on the principle “give a man a fish they will eat for one day, teach him how to fish, and they will eat forever”, which means that counseling will likely help you to develop strategies not only to deal with the problem at hand but even with other ones that may come in the future.

So even though sometimes you may just want a quick fix for a situation, know that there are many reasons behind counselors not giving advice. Let’s discuss what they are.

Why don’t counselors give advice? 

If you have been going through something, and it is wondering why your counselor isn’t giving you straightforward advice, know this is happening because they are often focused on trying to empower you and make you more active in the decision-making process.

As said before, empowering you will not only give you strength, and understanding to deal with this difficult moment, but it will also help you to learn, and change, so you can make better decisions for yourself in the future. 

But this is not an easy and quick process it can often be painful to look that deep within yourself, but it is only through that self-examination process that you can learn more about yourself.

A counselor will also never give you advice because, as said before, giving advice implies telling you what to do based on your previous experiences with the person. The counselor is rather trying to make you see what you should do based on your own experiences, and personal beliefs, so you can make a more authentic decision.

Aside from that, it is not everyone that is going through something difficult that is looking for advice, some people, as they share their stories just want to be heard and feel supported. 

In those cases, talking to people that often give you advice can make them feel pressured to take action in a determined manner. That is why a counselor will often listen to you in a supportive, and caring way.

How can counseling help me? 

If you are still in doubt if you should look for a counselor, know that it can help you in various ways. It is a safe space in which you will create a genuine relationship, in which you will be heard, and accepted without any prior judgment.

In this space, you will have your counselor’s full attention, and they will listen to you fully, giving you some comfort. 

Going through counseling also means that you will have someone that was trained to pay close attention to what you are saying, and that will highlight to you any ambiguity you show in your speech, and make you think about what what you are saying means.

A counselor may also make a quick recap on what you have said, and offer some insight, not advice about it. Through that, they will not only show you that they understand, and are listening to what you are talking about, but they are also giving you something else to think about in the matter.

This will give you a chance to explore a little more the themes at hand. It is a chance for you to dig deeper, so you can identify what your course of action should be in each situation.

It is important to highlight that counseling can be given by a lot of people, as long as they have the proper training for it. It can be done by teachers, social workers, nurses, or other care providers. They will often be people that can help others develop, or even deal with crises or moments of profound distress.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): What is the difference between counseling and advice? 

What is the primary goal of counseling?

The most important goal of counseling is to help the person that is going through the process to make a decision based on critical thinking and taking under consideration all of the possibilities they have.

During the counseling, they may become aware of many new possibilities they have, and then they will be able to decide the best course of action without any interference from other people’s views, and opinions.

What are the stages of a counseling process?

There are 5 stages to counseling, in the first one, the relationship between counselor and client is being built. At this moment, the counselor will engage with the client to understand what brought them there and do an initial interview. That is the stage that, when well done, will guarantee a good foundation.

After that, comes the second stage in which the two will go in-depth looking at the problem, to assess it. In this stage, the counselor will ask a lot of questions to try and understand more about the client’s life. This is a way to also try to assess triggers, timing, and stress factors.

In the third stage, known as goal setting, the client and the counselor will set their goal for their work together. This should always be a realistic goal, and the client should be committed to reaching it. 

The fourth stage of counseling, which is known as the counseling intervention, is one in which each counselor will likely act based on their line of work; some, like the person-centered approach, will try to engage in the client’s self-actualizing tendency. 

And once they feel they are close to reaching the goal that was set, the counselor will evaluate to discuss the termination of the process, which needs to be done well. It is something that should be discussed in advance with the client, to prevent this to be felt like a violent break.

What are the steps clients need to take for the counseling process to go well?

If you are going to counseling, know that the first step towards having a successful process is being open and willing to do it. This means that even though it may not be clear what, and how, you need to have that deep-seated feeling in you that you need to change. This means that you are willing to move outside of your comfort zone.

This leads us to the second step, which is motivation. Being open to making things change is essential for a counseling process to work. And since counseling is not something that will bring results from one moment to the next, working through it means you need to be committed.

You should know you will invest time, and energy in this process that won’t always be an easy one. But with this investment, you will likely be stronger. And that will only happen if you have faith in the process.

It is only possible to achieve change if you believe that you are capable of it and that you are also doing all you can to achieve it. Knowing how to take it step by step, not expect too much of yourself, and of counseling all at once, will allow you to have faith.

What are the key factors of a counselor for the counseling process to work?

For a counseling process to work, a counselor should always have a positive posture towards their client. This doesn’t mean telling them only what they want to hear, but that they will offer a supportive, caring, and non-judgemental ear.

This also means that the counselor should always be empathetic to the suffering of the client. As said before, this doesn’t mean the counselor will always agree with the client, but that, even when they don’t agree, they are putting their words in a caring, and empathetic way.

Finally, a counselor should always be consistent. All of their words, actions, and behaviors should be aligned in one direction, which should often be helping their clients to understand what they are going through and figure out how to deal with each situation.

What are things that a counselor should never do?

Some behaviors of the counselor can lead to problems ahead, or even make the counseling process impossible. To prevent that from happening, a counselor should never be someone that will give the client advice.

They should also never be judgemental or try to make the client see the matter through their point of view. This means that the counselor should never insist upon you acting as they would in their lives.

To care so that the relationship happens healthily, there should also be an emotional distance between the counselor, and the client.


This article explained the key differences between counseling and giving advice. It showed the reasons why counselors will often not give advice, and how counseling can help you through your troubles.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.





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