What is the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Therapist?

Learn about what sets psychologists & therapists apart from each other & how they help people improve their emotional & mental health.

What is the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Therapist?

Psychologists are trained social scientists who can do research, an important academic and clinical contribution to the profession. A therapist is a broader term for professionals who are trained and often licensed to provide a variety of treatments and rehabilitation to people. The most significant difference between a counselor and a psychologist is that the latter has a specialized education in psychology. Those who study psychology at the graduate level can earn either a doctorate or a doctorate.

In these programs, one can choose to focus on research, practice, or a combination of both. While either of them can practice therapy, both the counselor and the psychologist must spend years under the supervision of other licensed professionals before they are granted a license to practice. Although they treat some of the same types of mental illness, the depth of treatment and the philosophy of each field are different. Therapists focus on the social aspects of mental health, focusing on relationships and society.

Psychologists provide broader theoretical bases for human thinking and behavior to search for the root causes of dysfunction and treat them on an individual basis. A potential therapist can tell you the difference between the two and recommend which one would be best for treating your mental health problems. Timothy Legg is board certified as a nurse specializing in geriatric and psychiatric mental health and is also a licensed psychologist. While the term school counselor generally refers to the staff member who helps students determine and achieve their academic goals and provides professional guidance, a school psychologist addresses the mental health needs of students.

Like psychologists, other therapists, such as mental health counselors, may choose to specialize in a particular field of mental health care or work with a specific population. You may be able to attribute these differences to semantics when you informally discuss the topic of mental health conditions and the people who treat them. At the most basic level, both therapists and psychologists work with you to improve your emotional and mental health. Counseling psychologists work directly with patients within a professional psychological services group, a mental health clinic, or a private practice.

In states outside of Texas, therapists and psychologists can receive specific training to prescribe certain medications related to mental health. Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists receive medical training and can prescribe medications, although psychologists can prescribe medications in Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, New Mexico and Louisiana, as well as in the Public Health Service, the Indian Health Service and the United States. When looking for a mental health professional, the terms therapist and psychologist may often be used interchangeably. A good psychologist, licensed professional counselor, or other mental health professional will explain the therapeutic process to you step by step, along with your preferred method of therapy. When doctors recommend counseling or therapy with a mental health professional, they'll refer you to the right specialist, whether that's a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

Therapists usually work with interpersonal problems, while psychologists can treat any type of mental health problem, and psychiatrists deal with problems that are addressed through appropriate medical and pharmaceutical treatments. We should mention that there are many types of therapists, all of whom cover different areas of mental health.

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