What's the Difference Between a Therapist and a Psychologist?

What’s the Difference Between a Therapist and a Psychologist?

Therapy

Tamika Lewis May 29, 2021

The human mind has been a mystery to many philosophers and scientists throughout the history of humankind. Nowadays, the reason is still a puzzle to many medical professionals who try to unravel this mystery. The branch of science is all known to us; it is called psychology. But what’s the difference between a therapist and a psychologist? What can one do that the other can’t? When should you seek help from one and when from the other?

The Difference Between a Therapist and a Psychologist – The Science Behind the Definition

When it comes to studying the human brain, if we compare it to a computer, neurologists would be the ones that are studying the “hard drive”, while psychologists would be the ones dealing with the “software”. But even though all the professionals in the field of psychology are working to help people improve their mental health, there are also differences between a therapist and a clinical psychologist. So let’s see what those differences are.

Psychologists:

  • Have an advanced degree in psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D)
  • Diagnose disorders or problems
  • Can do research and studies
  • Can provide support and guidance
  • Can determine treatment
  • Can not prescribe medication
  • Can work as psychotherapists

Therapists:

  • Can have a degree in psychology, social work, psychiatry, marriage counseling
  • Can provide support and guidance for patients
  • Help the patient see the problem and work on it
  • Have a license in providing some type of psychotherapy
  • Can diagnose psychological and emotional problems and treat the patient
  • Can not prescribe medication

So to make things clear, a clinical psychologist can become a therapist if they finish a master’s or license program in psychotherapy, but not all therapists are psychologists. As we mentioned above, you can have a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s in psychotherapy, for instance, and you will be considered a psychotherapist.

Either way, both professionals will give you the help that you need.

Differences Between Other Types of Mental Health Professionals

Some professionals we didn’t mention are psychiatrists and other types of counselors. A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can treat and diagnose a problem, and they are the ones that can prescribe medication to treat certain diseases. Psychiatrists often don’t provide counseling for a patient, and they work with psychologists and therapists if needed.

Other counselors are marital and family therapists, certified alcohol and drug abuse counselors, art therapists, music therapists, and others. They all have advanced degrees and may have a license to provide therapy. This depends on what kind of specialized field your counselor works in.

What Kind of Therapists are There?

Many mental health professionals tend to narrow down their field of interest with specific training and degrees. This way, you can choose an expert that suits your need best. For instance, there are therapists for black women or women of color therapists who provide specialized therapy services for women of color. This doesn’t mean that they will not provide the help you need if you are not an African American woman or another minority,  only that they have a more in-depth understanding of the problems that women of color have to endure daily and can provide better counseling.

No matter which one you choose to talk to, you will feel better.

Is a Psychologist Better Than a Therapist?

When we talk about what the difference between a psychologist and a therapist is, we’re not talking about which one is better but what kind of help they provide and what type of help you need. There are many different types of therapy like psychoanalysis, behavioral, cognitive, and more. They are all focused on helping clients determine what the problem is and helping them make a change or overcome difficulties like social anxiety, depression, loss, trauma, divorce, family issues, addiction, and so on. So you can go and see a clinical psychologist, and they will give you counseling and support, but if they don’t have a psychotherapy degree, they can not, for instance, conduct behavioral therapy with you.

Which Mental Health Counselor Should My Child See?

If you are wondering Should my child see a therapist or psychologist? our advice would be to see a psychologist first. Clinical psychologists can diagnose a problem and determine the treatment your child needs. So if you think your child is having mental health problems, talk to your school counselor and ask for advice.

After being examined, your child will get a proper diagnosis (if there is one) and will be referred to another professional, perhaps a psychiatrist or a psychotherapist. Maybe your counselor will decide that only sessions with a psychologist are necessary. But before you take your child to any professional, check whether they are licensed to provide such services. All psychologists must be licensed by the American Psychological Association, but don’t worry – every school counselor is licensed. And if you decide to take your child to a therapist, you should also check if they have all the licenses and degrees needed.

You can reach out for help through online sessions too.

What Does a Therapist Do?

To put it simply, a therapist’s primary goal is to change bad patterns of behavior. This change is induced with different methods we already talked about, but the primary purpose of every therapy is to find a solution for a problem a client has and figure out, together with the client, what kind of differences must be implemented. So the goal is the same, but the approach is different depending on which type of treatment you need.

When we talk about treatment, we talk about psychotherapy, which means in-person, face-to-face conversations about emotions, problems, various anxiety symptoms, and other traumas or issues potentially leading to a mental disorder. There is individual, group, family, couple, black girl therapy, and many other kinds dealing with losses, hate crime traumas, sexual assaults traumas, emotions, day-to-day problems, family issues, personal development, work stress, and more, so knowing how to choose a therapist is important. And yes, therapy is for everyone. Whether you’re feeling alone and depressed or have an eating disorder, psychotherapy is the right choice. If you’re wondering Does therapy work?, we assure you, you have no reason to doubt its effectiveness.

Is There Any Previous Counseling I Should Do Before I See a Therapist?

Well, there is no rule for this. Taking care of mental health is something every person should do. If you have issues you want to deal with, you should talk to any kind of mental health professional. If you have access to a school counselor, talk to them, and if needed, they will help you find the right professional. If you feel stressed about going to a therapist and taking this step, talk to someone closer to you before your first therapy appointment. There are numerous hotlines that offer anonymous counseling to people who need it. The person on the other side of the phone call can give you support and guidance in which professional you should see.

Going to a session will take longer, but it is always a better option than medication if it is not necessary.

Should I See a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, or Therapist?

We’ve talked about the difference between different mental health professionals, and now you probably have a better picture of which one you need. But to sum it up, if you are feeling bad and thinking about going to therapy, you can go to any of the professionals listed above (excluding psychiatrists) because they will advise you on what exactly you need. Lastly, if you decide to seek help, know that this is nothing to be ashamed of. Maintaining mental health is just as important as taking good care of your body.

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