Counseling to me is after the fact. It is the reaction to occurrences and negative situations that need to be corrected, altered, or changed. It is given more on an individual basis and in a private setting.
Patient education, on the other hand, is more preventative in nature. It foresees the potential problems and prepares the learner ahead of time with possible scenarios and solutions to those problems. It has more to do with the now, why, and how of things. It can be given in a formal setting among a group or individually as the need requires.
From a medical perspective, counseling could refer to phychological or psychiatric sessions designed to help a patient overcome or cope with a situation. It may be temporary, lasting only days, weeks, or months or it might be permanent, lasting years.
Counseling is more about discussion of feelings, issues, problems, and ways to overcome these issues and problems or to deal with the feelings and cope with every day living. Patient education is more about what to do and when to rapidly heal from an injury or surgery, although there may be a bit of patient education for mental illness as well...however, I see counseling as ongoing and long term whereas patient education is usually a temporary, one-time thing specific to one injury, surgery, recovery, or hospital stay.
I see patient education as a subset of the broader topic of counseling. Counseling can encompass advising, educating, and simply listening and reflecting back what has been heard. Patient education is to provision of information on a specific topic.
Counseling also requires a relationship between a therapist and a patient. Patient education can occur outside of a relationship with a professional; for example, a patient might do her own internet research on her condition.
Patient education involves giving patients the factual information relating to their condition, and the options they have for treatment. Counseling is more along the lines of telling people what could happen--think of genetic counseling, for example. They tell people what the chance of having a problem with their offspring is. It also can be a way of helping people solve problems that don't have clear-cut solutions.
I think that patient education involves the act of "counseling" but formal "counseling" is an entity of itself. True counseling takes specific training and certification. Although I do engage in the act of "counseling", I am far from a counselor and know when to refer a student to a trained professional. That's my two cents.
#3 is right in identifying a number of different approaches to what is termed "counselling" and in practice research has shown that many counsellors fall along a spectrum of what is termed directive and non-directive advice giving. To my mind, the best counselling is non-directive in that it doesn't seek to "solve" somebody's problems for them rather it helps a person explore their own situation and through carefully structured questions to guide them in deciding what they need to do to help themselves.
I believe the context of patient educators is very different, and much more directive as there is a specific context with a specific goal in mind. Counselling is much more open-ended.
There are different types of counselors. There are those that work with people regarding certain behaviors or feelings that are present. These feelings, as well as ways to deal with these feelings, are discussed and worked through. There are also counselors that are available to assist people in making decisions. They discuss options that are available and what option is in the best interest of the individual.
I believe a patient educator may be a bit different. They will be more like an educator. Instead of discussing things together, the patient educator will educate and inform the patient, more like a teacher.
To me, the fundamental difference between both concepts is the formal structure in one that might not be as apparent in the other. Patient education sounds like a formal process. There would be clearly defined benchmarks and goals that are to be reached, a set of materials used in the process, and the person leading the process is actually "leading" it, guiding the patient through it and ensuring that the end result in whatever form is met. In counseling, the role of the "leader" is much more collaborative in my mind as well as one that seeks to bring the other into the fold to take and assume leadership in the advocacy process. "Teacher" becomes more of "resource" in the counseling paradigm. Additionally, goals and end benchmarks are more subjective, based on the individual and their exact gain might be more of a process based initiative. Perhaps, one looks at progress and improvement as the primary tools of measuring achievement in counseling than in education.
Counseling generally refers to two way discussions between a counselor and a client, patient, or any other person with a problem to be solved, a decision to be taken, or some behavioral pattern to be changed. It is interactive. It id directed facilitating decision on some specific issue or immediate change in behavior.
In contrast education refers to just passing on of knowledge on some specific issue. It may involve some questions or requests for clarification by the patient, but by and large the patient is a passive member in the interaction. Education may result in some immediate change in behavior or some immediate decision being taken. However that is not its primary objective.
It is important to note that counseling may contain sustain element of education in it. At the same time some counseling can be combined with education also.