Do stool softeners like Metamucil work the same way as laxatives?

Neither are laxative. Stool sofeners (colace) moisten & soften hard, dry stools whereas fiber supplements (metamucil) buks stool due to both water-holding & increased bacterial mass due to fiber digestion. Both products assume normal GI anatomy without inflammation, stenosis, extrinsic or instrinsic obstruction. Change in bowels is a "red flag", like weight loss or blood in stool, that needs evaluation if persistent.