Therapist vs Psychologist

Friday, March 05, 2021 can connect you with a therapist, counselor, or psychologist quickly, but people often wonder what the differences between the three actually are. It is a good idea to know the differences so that you can navigate through all of the mental health professionals and find one that is right for you.

     The differences between the three can actually be somewhat confusing. To understand, it is best to look at what each one is.

Therapist vs Psychologist


     The term psychologist refers to any person that holds a Ph.D. or a Psy.D in psychology. Clinical psychologists have a specialization in either talk therapy or behavioral therapy. On the other hand, general psychologists have a range of issues related to psychology. General psychologists often offer a range of services that may include art therapy, group therapy, and marriage therapy.

     Psychologists can also be board-certified with a certificate to practice in their state of residence. These certifications are given by the American Psychological Association. Psychologists are educated and trained to study human behavior, emotions, and mental processes.

     Psychiatrists have additional training for clinical practice and medical care for psychiatry. They are also allowed to prescribe medication to assist in treatment. Someone has to have a medical degree in order to be a psychiatrist. However, in some state’s psychologists can work to prescribe medications if they are licensed by the American Psychological Association and their state.


     A therapist will typically hold a master’s degree in the field of psychology or other related fields such as counseling psychology or even social work. Therapists often focus on a specialization in providing one or more types of therapy.

     Generally, therapists will not be involved in research like clinical psychologists are. However, they may do psychological testing or write research-based articles for publications. Psychotherapy counselors that are certified by the American Psychological Association can help people find a therapist to solve underlying issues. A therapist focuses on treating unhealthy behaviors.

     Both psychiatrists and therapists provide support to those suffering from mental illness. However, a psychiatrist treats the mental illness like a medical professional whereas a therapist provides mental health support. This is often emotional support for specific issues such as substance abuse, marriage issues, or grief. Psychologists sometimes bridge the gap between therapists and psychiatrists.

Other Mental Health Professionals

     In addition to psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists, there are other mental health professionals that you may want to know about.

     Licensed Mental Health Counselors or Licensed Professional Counselors hold master’s degrees and counseling degrees. They provide practical techniques to help those who suffer from mental illnesses. They usually have a focus on one or more modalities such as dialectical behavioral therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. These types of therapies strive to change unhealthy thought patterns and emotional management.

     Licensed Clinical Social Workers are counselors that hold a master’s degree in social work. They are trained to work for state systems and other bureaucracies. They sometimes provide additional services, like case management, where they can coordinate the mental health needs of their clients with additional services. They have connections that enable them to provide sufficient resources to the people that they serve. They are also qualified to look into additional factors that may be related to mental health such as sexism, racisms, economics, or oppression.

     Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists are trained and licensed in therapy and family systems and focus on helping you figure out how the relationships in your life are impacting your overall mental health. These therapists often have an area of specialization as well. Some specialize in childhood or adolescent therapy. Others focus on family issues, grief, anger, caregiving, or financial stress.


     As you can see, the lines between therapist, psychologist, and psychiatrist usually depend on the education, training, and certification that the mental health professional holds. However, many do offer services relating to specializations and there are sub-categories of therapy that you may be interested in. For example, if you have social issues, then you may want to seek the help of a licensed clinical social worker. However, if you believe that you would benefit from therapy and medication simultaneously it may be best to see a psychiatrist.

     Finding a mental health professional should not be stressful. All of them are here to help and support you and to improve your overall mental health and wellbeing. If you just need someone to talk to about your mental health, then do not worry about their certification and title. You may also check about free psychology and mental health courses online to know more about mental health professionals. 

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