Therapist Or Psychologist: Which One To Choose

By: Marie Miguel

Updated September 09, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly L Brownridge , LPC, NCC, BCPC Counsel The Mind, LLC

Therapist Vs Psychologist: What's The Difference?

Choosing to seek mental health care like individual or family therapy means you're prioritizing your own health and well-being, whether you see a therapist vs psychologist. Mustering up the courage to begin finding a counselor is no easy task, whether you decide to see a therapist vs psychologist. Taking part in talk counseling sessions with a therapist vs psychologist is something everyone can benefit from, and it's a good idea to learn the difference between therapist vs psychologist. It's important to find a counselor or therapist vs psychologist who can achieve the best results for you. 

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This article will cover the main differences between a therapist vs psychologist. Don't be intimidated-we'll walk you through therapist vs psychologist and all the details. The differences between a therapist vs psychologist can be confusing. A psychologist is a social umbrella term for an individual with a Ph.D. or a Psy.D in the field of psychology. A Ph.D. that clinical psychologists have an advanced specialization in the practices of talk counseling and behavioral counseling.

What Is A Psychologist?

 General psychologists focus on a range of general psychology-related issues including providing individual counseling, marriage family counseling, mental health counseling, or group counseling. (Therapists vs psychologists and other licensed clinicians can't act in the role of an individual group or family counselor.) Psychiatrists and psychologists can work either as clinicians, researchers, or both. They often work hand-in-in to provide holistic care solutions that treat the entire patient.

One of the main differences in psychiatry and psychology is the ability of the clinician to prescribe medications. It is important to understand these differences between a counselor, psychiatrist, and psychologist when you're seeking counseling. This is especially true if you're seeking counseling for an ongoing mental health condition that requires you to find a doctor for medical case management.

One of the main differences in psychiatry and psychology is the ability of the clinician to prescribe medications. It is important to understand these differences between a therapist, psychiatrist, and psychologist when you're seeking therapy. This is especially true if you're seeking therapy for an ongoing mental health condition that requires you to find a doctor for medical case management. In the case of a therapist vs psychologist, a psychologist will be able to prescribe medication.

Based on testing, psychiatry and psychology professionals share the care of clients who are using medication management as a means of treatment counseling. Once mental health medications reach the desired dosage, a psychiatrist may refer the patient to a psychologist or counselor to continue treatment.

What Is A Therapist?

One of the differences between a counselor and a psychologist is a social difference in the amount of practice that each has had after receiving a Master's Degree or higher. A therapist generally has a master's degree. Degreed counselors focus on providing marriage family counseling, group counseling, and individual counseling for resolving clinical-social issues. This is one of the main differences in a therapist vs psychologist. 

Another one of the differences is while both provide support and guidance, psychiatrists focus on treating medical issues related to mental illness as licensed medical professionals like primary care physicians. Counselors, on the other hand, focus on providing mental health and emotional support for marriage family issues which can include substance abuse counseling and family counseling sessions. Psychologists can work as a bridge between clinical social workers, marriage family counselors, medical doctors, and other human services workers.

Counselors and psychologists have an advanced licensed to practice counseling that involves complex individual and family counseling. Counseling may also work closely with social workers. Social workers are degreed professionals who provide important links to local community services. A social worker is a member of your treatment team that can help get you connected with local resources for food, shelter, housing, and mental health services like substance abuse counseling.

The key to understanding the differences between a therapist vs psychologist is to look at their credentials. Psychologists include a group of professionals who can provide social work services, marriage and family counseling, and individual counseling. They may be licensed to prescribe medication (in a few states) and can provide diagnostic assessment and testing. 

Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors and mental health professionals that have completed medical school and earned a medical degree. They rarely deal with issues that relate to social work unless they are a member of a treatment team for a patient who has social work-related needs. These medical doctors who specialize in providing medical treatments -- including mental health medications, also rarely engage in marriage or family mental health counseling. The majority are occupied with assessment and diagnosis for severe mental health disorders that also require medical treatment. As a result, you may often find that they often make referrals to psychologists and counselors for managing a marriage, family counseling, and individual issues.

Therapeutic Relationship

The relationship between the counselor and the client is often called a therapeutic alliance. It's important to find a counselor that you feel comfortable with long-term. With counseling subscription services (like those provided by BetterHelp.com) you have the option to find a new counselor at any time if your current counselor isn't meeting your needs.

Your provider should provide a safe space, a listening ear, and practical life advice. The success of counseling also depends on the client's willingness to engage with the counselor. Licensed counselors can provide clinical services using counseling modalities like CBT, forensic psychology, and family mental health counseling. Your licensed counselor is a socially and professionally trained specialist who can conduct psychological testing and assessment services.

In addition to therapist vs psychologist, you may consider the differences between a counselor and clinical psychologists, which is that psychologists can work on the results of psychological testing to determine if mental illness is present. Following is a list of common mental illness disorders that may require a medical provider to prescribe medication and counseling as a means of treatment.

  • Clinical depression

  • Schizophrenia

  • Panic disorders

  • Bipolar disorders

  • Personality disorders

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Panic disorders

  • Post-traumatic stress disorders

Most, if not all, of the above clinical-social disorders, are often treated with a combination of medication that is prescribed when you find a psychiatrist, psychological care, and counseling programs. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) are examples of two types of behavior counseling that may be used in mental health and substance abuse treatments.

Why Therapy?

Overall, four in ten American adults have seen a counselor at some point in their lives to improve their mental health. Having a counselor is now a social norm, something we can all benefit from. The benefits of talk counseling mental health counseling for mental health and substance abuse are numerous. People who take part in individual counseling mental health counseling, family counseling report increased happiness and the ability to cope with life's challenges healthily and productively. After sessions with a reliable and professional mental health provider, people also report an increased sense of relief from emotional symptoms like anxiety. Whether you see therapist vs psychologist or counselor, you'll likely feel better after counseling.

A counselor and psychologist can provide people in crisis with a full spectrum of human services related to mental health and substance abuse disorders. Counselors use techniques like CBT, clinical or forensic psychology, and many more to diagnose, treat, and support community suffering members.

When you see a psychologist, it is important for them to understand your feelings. It's their job is to identify and clarify the nature of your emotions. Then, they use passive treatments and/or medications to bring your emotions under control.

However, when you see a counselor, their job is to guide you and support you as you examine your own feelings. They may prompt you to think about how you feel or help you to describe your emotions, but you are the one who gets in touch with your own feelings. Your counselor may suggest ways for you to understand and improve sad or angry feelings, but you are the one who chooses whether to do anything and if so, what that is.

Therapeutic Decisions

A counselor and psychologist will assist you in making decisions about your approach to counseling, as will a therapist vs psychologist. However, you are still ultimately in charge of your own life (unless you are a danger to yourself or others). The psychologist is similar to a medical doctor in that they determine what you need to do to improve your mental health (however, it is important to note they can not prescribe medication like a medical doctor can). This includes deciding what types of counseling are likely to work best for your situation. A key difference, however, is that when it comes to decisions like these, you are less involved in these decisions than you would be with a counselor.

Another one of the differences between a counselor and a psychologist is that a counselor encourages you to think of answers to your own problems. Both psychologists and counselors may offer ideas, but you are more clearly in charge of coming up with possible solutions and considering which treatment options you want to try with your counselor. Because some problems discussed with a counselor are short-term or mild, you have more leeway to choose the course you think is best.

After you have been in counseling for a while, you might notice that making decisions becomes easier. This may happen because the process gives you ample opportunity to practice exploring options, thinking out whether they will be helpful, making your own decisions, acting on them, and learning from the experience.

Psychology And Medicine

When it comes to your happiness, the differences between a therapist vs psychologist are few. Both are there to help you, but you may find a noticeable difference in the way you are treated between the two. A psychologist has the tasks of overseeing your mental condition and being responsible for your improvement. They may also be able to help you find a doctor who can provide medication if they are within your health network.

The counselor/client relationship is slanted in a way that gives the client more power than the counselor, but when finding a counselor, you may feel your status is nearly equal to the counselor. You work together to identify problems, describe feelings, and find solutions. The counselor is there to help you, but you may get a sense that you are more in control, particularly in interpersonal counseling or client-centered counseling. Many people feel more comfortable with a counselor because the relationship does not seem so lopsided.

Psychology Art And Science

In nearly every occupation, there is both an art and a science. The same is true with both psychologists and counselors. A psychologist is a social scientist. They have learned about the science of the human mind by studying and/or conducting research on mental processes. They focus on the scientific method more than they do on the more intuitive, artistic side of counseling. Like medical doctors, they rely on what the research has shown works for clients with similar conditions to yours.

A licensed counselor or therapist vs psychologist may also use the results of scientific studies as a basis for much of their work. However, the counselor may take a more artistic approach to therapy. A human mind is a very complex system, which cannot always be understood by a study examining a limited number of variables. The counselor sees the person as a whole human being. No study can account for every factor in the human mind and many people find that this intuitive approach makes more sense to them. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing a variety of life's challenges.

Therapist Reviews

"Jacques is a very good listener and he has a lot of knowledge and experience about psychology and empathy. Unlike most of the therapists, he is more focused on the solutions than the reasons from the past. He understands me even when I can't express myself very well and after every session, I was told by my friends that I look happier and more positive."

"In the past, I have gone to at least five different therapy centers and therapists. I feel very grateful to have been connected to Audra by BetterHelp because she is the first therapist that has actually made me feel progress toward getting through past traumatic experiences. She is clearly very skilled and knows exactly what she is doing. Not only is she talented in her field but she also has a strong sense of empathy that makes you feel that she actually cares. I am grateful to be able to seek guidance from her and will continue to do so because it has without a doubt helped me grow and heal. Immediately you start seeing results while working with Audra on your mental health goals. Thank you, Audra! I look forward to continuing working with you."


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