Find Out The Difference Between A Therapist And A Psychologist

By Sarah Fader

Updated November 07, 2019

Reviewer Laura Angers

When it comes to getting help for our problems and improving our lives, there are licensed mental health professionals who can help. If you are in the process of seeking therapy, knowing the differences between mental health care titles can be imperative to your success. Mental health professionals provide talk therapy in an environment where you can feel safe to begin resolving your issues. This article should help you clarify the difference between a therapist, a psychologist, and other behavioral health providers.

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Get the Right Provider For Your Needs

Finding the right licensed professional to help you begin your therapeutic process is no easy task. The good news is that there are mental health care professionals dedicated to providing good therapy and realistic solutions to dealing with life's daily problems. Most mental health care providers provide a free consultation to discuss your thoughts and feelings.

You have the right to see a mental health provider who suits your needs. Many people feel overwhelmed when it comes to the topic of dealing with their own mental health issues, which is completely understandable. Finding the right provider, taking time out of the workday to drive to an appointment, sitting in a waiting room full of strangers - these are all reasons people feel overwhelmed when thinking about seeking mental health care. This is where online therapy comes in (discussed in more detail later).

Common issues addressed by therapists and psychologists include:

  • Anger management issues
  • Binge eating disorders
  • Depression treatment
  • Stress management
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Sex therapy

Participating in professional therapy (with a licensed therapist) will help you to mitigate the pains associated with the issues above, and other problems including depression, anxiety, and stress. Finding the right therapist is critical to beginning to learn how to manage your thoughts and feelings to change your life.

A good therapist will explain the therapeutic process step-by-step along with their preferred method of therapy. When you begin to search for therapists, take note of what preferred methods that your chosen provider subscribes to. Verify that your health provider is licensed to practice by visiting your state licensing board online.

You can learn more about your chosen mental health care provider by paying attention to their online presence in the form of websites and social reviews when you go online to find a therapist.

What Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Do?

Many psychologists and therapists in the United States are professionally trained to practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT. This is a form of behavior therapy that teaches you to catch negative thought patterns and reframe them to more positive thoughts, which leads to positive behaviors. Talk therapy sessions for CBT can occur in a variety of settings, including counseling centers, hospitals, or private practices.

Regardless of the location of your sessions, a good therapist will create an environment where you can feel safe enough to begin resolving your issues. Participating in CBT can help people feel more empowered when dealing with issues like anger management, anxiety, trauma, and other issues. Below are a few things cognitive behavioral therapy can do for you.

Cope with Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression. These two terms are thrown around a lot, to the point where it may seem like they are the same thing. This is usually because both are connected with self-defeating thoughts.

Anxiety disorder brings worry and irrational thoughts. Anxiety disorder tends to feed into itself, making it hard to break. Depression deals with negative thoughts, many of which will make you feel worse. It tends to be a tough cycle, because your depression can make you more upset by throwing you out of your routine. Cognitive behavioral deals with depression, anxiety, or both. Here's how.

  • You discard or dismiss the bad thoughts associated with anxiety and depression.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps the side effects of anxiety and depression as well, such as insomnia and going out of routine.
  • By practicing it regularly, CBT becomes your mindset. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems don't stand a chance.

Help with Your Confidence

If you're a licensed professional therapist, you can practice a wide range of mental health care. You might be using an integrative approach where you combine various techniques or theories. A psychologist can do that as well. You will learn more about the difference between a psychologist and a therapist as we delve deeper into these two professions in this article.

Seeking professional help can change your life for the better. It's critical to know the right steps to take when choosing a therapist or licensed professional counselor.

Psychologists

Psychologists have a degree in psychology, and often have taken advanced studies in the same field, including doctorate or Ph.D. study levels. They may also do research on topics that interest them, along with their colleagues or as faculty for higher education facilities. Their job is to diagnose patients and clients and determine treatments based on their observations.

They have a strong role in providing support and guidance and can help patients make decisions, understand what they're going through, and clarify their feelings to better determine next steps. They often work as part of a team when it comes to tackling a patient's problems, commonly with a psychiatrist. While they can't prescribe medication, the psychiatrist can, so these professions complement each other well in treatment.

Therapists

Therapists, on the other hand, can encompass any number of different professions including social work. The term therapist has often been used to encompass social workers, and a variety of counselors. Because of this, they may hold a degree in various fields including an MD, Ph.D. or Masters.

While they may also provide guidance and support, a therapist's function is different based on their area of expertise and their level of qualifications. Let's look at different types of therapists in more detail.

Types of Therapists

We should mention that there are many types of therapists, all of which cover different aspects of mental health. To find the right therapist, learn more about what methods are a good fit for your personal situation.

Don't be afraid to ask specific questions while you're in the process of finding the right therapist. Ask your prospective provider about their history of helping people overcome issues that you're struggling with. Inquire about their preferred treatment methods. You may learn that you perform better as a member of a therapy group vs. participating in one-on-one talk therapy sessions.

Below are a few examples of therapists that practice in the United States based on the types of therapy they provide.

Family Therapy

Family therapy or family counseling covers adults, couples, and families. Family therapy involves helping a family, or a group of people like a family, deal with the many issues they may have. Family therapists provide social work-related services, couple therapy, and couples counseling in family counseling centers. Examples of what family therapy covers include:

  • People feel overwhelmed at times when dealing with a mentally ill family member. The therapist may help the family member with mental illness learn how to control themselves better, or they may help the other family members with managing mental illness.
  • Teaching adults, couples, and families ways they can manage conflict. Families are going to fight quite a lot, and a family therapist may be able to help fighting families manage their conflicts without resorting to domestic violence or other unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Family therapists may include social workers too. You may have an idea what a social worker is, but there are many misconceptions about them. Social workers tend to look at the families and see if there are any problems that need to be managed. Social workers don't have to be someone who takes the kids away, despite what the social worker reputation tends to be. A social worker can be someone who helps the family grow stronger.

Overall, family therapists are great for any adults, couples, and families by providing new ways to implement acceptance and commitment therapy strategies into everyday life.

Marriage Family Therapist

A marriage family therapist (MFT), commonly known as a marriage counselor, helps couples deal with their relationship problems and provides marriage counseling services to resolve the issues. MFTs offer a wide variety of services to complement their marriage counseling efforts within their psychotherapy practice.

MFTs focus on providing talk therapy and commitment therapy in conjunction with the following:

  • Mental health. A marriage family therapist may help a couple handle one member's bipolar disorder, or if they both have bipolar disorder, the therapist can help each other manage it together.
  • Another thing a marriage family therapist may do is help solve communication problems. Often, relationships break apart not because of any malicious issue, but because both parties don't know how to communicate properly. When you misconstrue words, it can end up causing fights and other drama. A marriage family therapist helps the two parties with that and with any other problems they may face.
  • Finances may be covered. This is the king of relationship problems, with many couples breaking apart their marriage due to financial dishonesty or spending too much. While a marriage family therapist isn't an accountant, they can help people be more financially honest, from teaching how to save money, how to communicate spending, and dealing with any mental health issues that could cause excessive spending.
  • A marriage family therapist can help with other problems as well. Give couple's counseling a try today.

You may feel like your relationship is too toxic to even bother with hiring a marriage family therapist, but you'll be surprised. Relationships that are not just on the rocks but falling off the edge have seen amazing recoveries in the past thanks to finding the right clinical social work therapist or marriage family therapist.

Substance Abuse

Find a therapist that specializes in substance abuse to help you if you find yourself addicted to drugs or alcohol. A substance abuse therapist is someone who helps those addicted to substances that are ruining one's life. Many people believe there is shame in seeking a substance abuse therapist, but that's just not true.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards stopping it. Many people go to a substance abuse therapist so they can figure out where to go from there. Substance abuse can lead to many problems, such as ruining a family, eating disorders that can lead to dangerous weight loss and even death, depression, anxiety, and other mental problems. If you or a loved one is battling with substance abuse, talk to a therapist today. Their health services can help you.

Some people who have an addiction can manage that addiction through outpatient therapy, but those who have life-threatening drug or alcohol problems may benefit from checking into treatment centers.

Navigating treatment centers in the United States can be daunting, but they have therapists who are designed to guide you out of drugs and alcohol in the most comfortable way. Treatment centers allow the patient to detox from drugs or alcohol in the safest way possible. Often, detoxing is dangerous. This is why it is critical to find the right therapist that understands your unique situation. In addition, treatment centers teach you ways to avoid alcohol and drugs and help you to identify any triggers you may have concerning them. If you're curious about getting rehab, try one out near you.

Grief and Loss Therapist

One of the many mental health services a therapist can offer is dealing with grief and loss. A therapist of this caliber can help you cope with losing your friends and family, be it an untimely death or a family member with a long battle with cancer or another fatal illness. You can learn more about the grieving process, including the realization that it's not so black and white, and you can learn not to "get over" the loss of your friend or family member, but learn how to continue without them. Find a therapist who specializes in dealing with grief and loss if you feel stuck or unable to move on in your grieving process.

Child and Adolescent Therapist

A child and adolescent therapist does just what the title says it does. They help children, adolescents, and their families cope with the many family problems and family conflict one may face in the early years. For children, they may have behavioral issues such as borderline personality, learning disabilities, family problems, and dealing with schools and grades. For adolescents, there are many problems as well. Feeling anxious over growing pains, feeling anxious about what comes after high school, getting a job, managing relationships, and so much more.

Children, adolescents, and adults need a good talking to if they want to solve their behavioral health related problems. A therapist is skilled at helping people and can counsel young children to elderly adults. For many parents, empathizing with children, adolescents, or even a young adult is a challenge, and a therapist in this category knows how to do it.

Divorce Therapy

Another therapist one may talk to is a divorce therapist. Sometimes a marriage counselor or a family counselor just isn't enough, and the couple has decided to divorce. Divorce therapists can give divorcing couples therapy and they are skilled at helping people navigate the rocky waters of divorce.

  • They may use the collaborative process. The collaborative process is a divorce method that involves working with a therapist or other pro to come up with an agreement. Settling things in court is expensive and emotionally exhausting. The collaborative process is designed to help everyone reach an amicable agreement. If you can control your dislike for your spouse, the collaborative process may be worth trying.
  • A divorce therapist can help you work out any trauma you may have had, such as domestic abuse.

Group Therapist

Group therapy involves helping people in large group with others who have similar problems. You may find therapists through your insurance plan who provide group therapy. Group therapy can help participants feel free to discuss their issues and solutions for treatment with like-minded individuals.

  • Behavioral health problems. Group therapy may teach others how to manage how they talk to others, how they control their emotions, and all other aspects of behavioral health.
  • Relationship issues. You can feel free to vent to others about any relationship issues you may have. Then, the other parties may talk about theirs. Venting just feels nice, and after you let it all out, you can help one another come up with solutions to any relationship issues you may have.
  • When you work with adults who are on the same page, you can come up with creative solutions.

Clinical Social Work Therapist

A clinical social work therapist, or social worker, is commonly associated with families, but they also work with groups of people, and the community at large. A clinical social work therapist can help everyone with their well-being and how they perform. Everyone has a different social role or job, and a clinical social work therapist can help you enhance your life by quite a bit. Clinical social work therapists help patients cope with issues of depression, addiction, and provide coping skills for managing depressive disorders like post-traumatic stress.

Related Health Care Issues

Brain Injury

A brain injury can make it harder to function in your daily life, but with just one phone call to the right professional counselor, you can begin to see positive changes. Sometimes, a brain injury can be reversed, but you need to talk to the right therapist and begin building a strong therapeutic alliance to make positive changes.

Contact your health insurance plan provider to find the right therapist in your price range who can help you deal with recovering from brain injury-related issues. Health insurance providers like Blue Cross offer mental health services as a part of their behavioral health plans.

Psychological Testing

You can request psychological testing from any of these behavioral health professionals. If you suspect you have a mental health condition, psychological testing can help. Often, there are criteria you must follow to request psychological testing. Sometimes, you may end up with a dual diagnosis, where mental health conditions overlap. A licensed therapist can help you choose the right method of therapy for managing a dual diagnosis.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychologists use psychology in conjunction with law enforcement proceedings and court cases. This is a field where psychologists apply psychology to the law, and the many court cases that can happen across the United States or the entire world. If you're interested in law, forensic psychology may be the solution for you.

Managed Care

This is a field that involves figuring out how to lower the cost of healthcare (that is for-profit) while being able to provide the same quality services. Lately, the cost of healthcare in the US has been a discussion many have had, and managed care is designed to fight back against costs that seem like they are too much. This may be a job that is worth pursuing if you're curious on how you can help the less fortunate in the world. There are many people who could grow if they just had the proper healthcare, but for many, that isn't feasible.

Psychotherapy Counseling

This is a form of therapy that is much longer than regular counseling or therapy. Psychotherapy counseling is for those who have bigger problems that require time. Often, a counselor in this field will work with their clients to make sure they are getting the right amount of care.

What Are the Main Differences Between a Therapist and a Psychologist?

The most significant difference between a therapist and a psychologist has to be the fact that a psychologist is a trained social scientist. Individuals who go onto study graduate-level psychology could pursue a PsyD or a Ph.D. In these programs, one can choose to focus on research, practice, or a combination of the two. While either can practice therapy, both a therapist and psychologist must still spend years under the supervision of other licensed practitioners before being granted a license to open their own private practice.

An individual who has a PsyD doesn't do as much research training as a person who is in a psychology Ph.D. program. Someone who is studying in a Ph.D. program in psychology will have training in both research and practice. People with both PsyDs and PhDs are qualified to become licensed psychologists. Additionally, clinical Ph.D. programs are typically harder to get into and are more rigorous due to the scientific training involved.

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Therapists also undergo training and need to meet strict requirements to obtain their licenses. A therapist is someone who can counsel, advise and help you with feelings and decisions within a structured support network. As discussed above, therapists might include marriage or relationship counselors or those who work with social care to help people with disabilities adjust. You can also find specialists who work with certain methods like drama therapists or speech therapists under this banner.

A psychologist may also be involved with the APA, or American Psychological Association. This is one of the largest groups of psychologists in the United States. The APA has over 100,000 members and offers a find a therapist feature on their website.

Hopefully, this helps to clarify the difference between the two titles. There are so many initials and letters out there that it's often hard to know the difference between one type of therapist vs. another. When searching for the right professional for you, research is important; that way you know your therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor has the right tools to help you. Sites like BetterHelp give you a range of professionals to choose from, all from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

Who Can Prescribe Medication?

Neither psychologists nor therapists prescribe medications; however, in certain states, they can. Since psychiatrists can prescribe medication, both psychologists and therapists usually work alongside them in situations where treatment plans require both talk therapy and medication.

Except for the rare instances in which psychiatrists provide psychotherapy, visits with a psychiatrist are usually only 15-minute medication checks. During this short time, the psychologist or therapist can explain the client's symptoms succinctly, and in more clinical terms that the client can. This allows the client to get the most out of that brief visit and also feel heard and seen.

Cost

Cost is a critical factor to consider when seeking therapy. In fact, a psychologist's fee may be as high as that of an M.D. psychiatrist. Therapists may charge within a wide range of fees. Some therapists are affordable for anyone, while others may charge exorbitant fees. The therapists at BetterHelp charge fees that are about the same as typical co-pays through your insurance company, such as Blue Cross, Blue Shield.

Do You Need A Therapist Or A Psychologist? Let's Find What's Right For You
Click Here To Get Matched With A Licensed Counselor Today

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Choosing Your Professional

You have a lot to consider as you make your selection of the type of professional you want to see. Your insurance may limit these choices, but otherwise, it's up to you to decide. The first thing you need to do is to think about the issues you want to address. Then, seek out both psychologists and therapists in your area who specialize in these issues. Make sure to consider cost of treatment, as well as reviews from other clients, before pursuing the initial consultation.

This can take a lot of research and time if you plan to see someone in your local community. The information you need to compile in order to choose between all your options might be scattered across the Internet. However, if you decide to talk to a counselor on BetterHelp.com, each of these professionals has a profile that lists facts about their education, experience, interests, and specialties. Counselors on BetterHelp are licensed, trained, and accredited psychologists (PhD/PsyD), marriage and family therapists (MFTs), clinical social workers (LCSW/LMSW), or licensed professional counselors (LPCs). All of them have a Masters Degree or a Doctorate Degree in their field. They also all possess at least three years and 2,000 hours of hands-on experience. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing different issues and life challenges.

Counselor Reviews

"Dr. Kogan amazingly knows how to respond to my concerns in a level of detail that I'm looking for without setting off any of my triggers. She has never, not once, made me more angry or upset about something than I already was initially. There are many things that irritate me, so this is not a feat to be taken lightly. I feel like I have more insight from a few months of working with her compared to my aggregate progress from years of working with various other therapists."

"Dr. Barriteau is extremely warm and easy to talk to as well as extremely professional. It seems to be that you get one or the other with many counselors: they're either very professional but closed off or impersonal, or they're very sympathetic and familiar but as a result seem unprofessional. I'm impressed by her ability to navigate that narrow middle ground where she can be both easy to talk to and also trustworthy and helpful. I am comfortable sharing my concerns with her and feel supported and understood. She is an excellent counselor."

Conclusion

Whether you choose online or local counseling, the most important thing you need to do is get the care you deserve. Do it while you're motivated. Make a decision and get ready to change your life for the better; try taking the first step today.

If you need a crisis hotline phone number, please see below:

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) - 1-800-656-4673

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255

National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-7233

NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) - 1-800-950-6264


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