If you have ever tried to look for a mental health professional, you have probably come across therapist and psychologist terms. Some people use them interchangeably, although they are different professionals. You may have seen a number of other names for them, such as counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, and more. The key is to understand how they differ.
A therapist and a psychologist are two types of professionals in the mental health field. They both work with patients to help them improve their emotional and mental health. A therapist is a generic term for professionals who are trained to help people improve their health or mental health, whereas a psychologist is a mental health professional who has earned a Ph.D. in Psychology.
Although all psychologists are therapists, all therapists aren’t psychologists. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about the differences.
What Is a Therapist?
The term therapist is a term that is used for anyone who is a professional who is trained to help people improve their mental or physical health. This includes speech therapists, physical therapists, and mental health therapists, as well as many others.
In mental health, a therapist is also known as a psychotherapist, and it refers to anyone who talks with patients as a form of therapy to work on their emotional problems. It can include a range of mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health counselors.
The term therapist isn’t a specific title for a position, but many types of therapists have jobs that require licensing. For example, marriage and family therapists specialize in helping couples and families, but they need a license to do so.
Types of Therapists
In the mental health field, there are many different types of therapists. They are usually named by the type of therapy they treat or the tools they use to treat it. For example, take a look at the following:
- Addiction therapists
- Art therapists
- Child therapists
- Marriage therapists
- Family therapists
- Music therapists
- Yoga therapists
They specialize in different areas, such as behavioral disorders or community mental health. They might help people at school or work in a substance abuse center. The certifications they need depend on what they are licensed to treat.
What Is a Psychologist?
A psychologist is a little bit more concrete in that they are a professional who has earned a Ph.D. or a PsyD. They study behaviors and mental processes, as well as how people interact with others and with their environment. They can help people learn how to handle different situations.
Normally, a psychologist meets with patients and diagnoses them. This might include mental disorders, learning disabilities, or behavioral problems. They can treat individuals, families, or groups, and they most commonly engage in talk therapy.
Psychologists understand the academics and researchers in their field, and they look at the research to guide them in treating patients. However, they cannot prescribe medicine. Most of the time, their education focuses on behavior sciences, so they have a solid understanding of how people with different mental health conditions react to environmental factors such as stress.
Some psychologists use talk therapy which is called cognitive-behavioral therapy. This helps people recognize negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones.
Types of Psychologists
There are different types of psychologists, and each type has a different role. Take a look at some of the most common types:
- Clinical psychology
- Cognitive psychology
- Developmental psychology
- Evolutionary psychology
- Forensic psychology
- Health psychology
- Occupational psychology
- Social psychology
In each of these fields, the psychologist focuses on specific types of problems, and they help people work through them. For example, cognitive psychologists help patients work on problem-solving, memory, communication, and this field is related to linguistics, neuroscience, and philosophy.
How Are Therapists and Psychologists Similar?
One of the biggest similarities between these two fields is that both professions treat mental health issues and symptoms that go along with them. They may treat them in different ways, but their goals are the same.
Both therapists and psychologists have education and training in mental health disorders and therapeutic techniques, and they both have a positive impact on their patients. They both tend to use talk therapy to work with patients and help them through their problems. Neither is able to prescribe medicine, but both can work with patients using other techniques.
Another similarity is that both usually require some kind of state license or certification for the type of treatment they offer. State licensing can require thousands of hours of training. They both are required to meet certain standards of quality when they treat patients, and they follow a code of ethics and morals. Although there are similarities, there are significant differences as well.
Differences Between Therapists and Psychologists
Take a look at some of the differences between these two professions:
One of the differences between these professionals is their education. Take a look at the education each will receive.
A psychologist has a Ph.D. in Psychology or a PsyD. This can include as many as 12 years of education. Then, they will go through an internship, where they are supervised for one or two years. They are trained in the science and research behind mental health, and they become accredited by the American Psychological Association’s Commission on Accreditation.
A therapist usually has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, and they have some supervised experience. It tends to take less time than becoming a psychologist. There isn’t one accreditation for therapists, but they can get accredited in their specialty area. For example, they can get accredited as art therapists or marriage and family therapists.
Another difference is the specialties that each field offers. As you can see in the list above, people can choose different career paths depending on their occupation.
Psychologists can work in research settings, companies, or as teachers. They can work at schools and address the mental health needs of students. They also work as counseling psychologists and help patients. This can be in private practice, as part of a group, or in a mental health clinic.
They can further specialize and help children with a particular disorder, couples experiencing marriage difficulties, people with addiction problems, and more. There are many different opportunities for psychologists.
Therapists are often called counselors, and they can also specialize in a particular field. Many specialize in substance abuse or marriage counseling. They can be licensed in these fields, or they can be licensed, social workers.
A licensed therapist can diagnose and help treat patients so that they can better understand and overcome their emotional disorders. In general, they use talk therapy, and they also tend to look at the whole patient.
They also have different responsibilities, although there can be some overlap. They may both use talk therapy to help patients, but a therapist tends to take a whole-patient approach, while a psychologist will focus on specific issues.
A psychologist will observe, interview, and survey patients, and then they discuss treatment options. They may also conduct scientific studies of people’s behaviors and brain function. Some psychologists write articles, and they do research. They share what they find with others. They can also supervise clinicians and counseling professionals, including therapists.
A therapist will usually talk with patients and encourage them to express how they are feeling and what they have experienced. They guide patients through a period of recovery, and they advise them on what they can do to improve their well-being. When necessary, they refer clients to other professionals.
Both psychologists and therapists use talk therapy to help patients work through their mental concerns. However, they may help in different ways. They may use observations and surveys to diagnose a mental health condition, and then they will research your condition and draw on what they already know to provide you with treatment recommendations.
They can offer therapies that are designed to help you improve your condition, and they can help you work through emotions and perceptions to help you better understand what you are going through. Although they are not able to prescribe medication, they often work with a psychiatrist to get you the prescriptions you need.
Therapists don’t usually research or diagnose mental health conditions, but they can, especially when they are under the supervision of a psychologist. They help patients discuss the way that they are feeling, and they help them learn how to approach their feelings in a positive and constructive way.
Therapists help guide people through what it takes to make healthy decisions, and they offer support through talk therapy techniques.
What to Look for in a Mental Health Professional
When a patient chooses a mental health professional, the most important thing is that they feel comfortable. They should make you feel safe, and they should be a good listener. They should also be able to offer sage advice on how you can better cope with emotionally charged issues.
The success rate of either a therapist or a psychologist depends on how willing the client is to engage and work through their problems.
For people who aren’t sure what is wrong, going to a psychologist for psychological testing can help determine whether or not mental illness is present. However, there are some mental illnesses that do require prescription medicine, such as schizophrenia, clinical depression, panic disorders, anxiety, and more.
When you go to a psychologist, they will identify and help you clarify your emotions. However, when you go to a therapist, they will guide you through examining your feelings. They are there to help you get in touch with yourself so that you can find ways to improve.
Psychologists study the science of the human mind through research, while therapists use the results of this research to help. Therapists look at the person as a whole human being, which can be an advantage in overlooking the human mind alone.
How Do They Approach Treatment?
Both of these professionals will approach your mental health in slightly different ways. In general, therapists look at specific challenges in your life and help you find ways to react practically. So, if a patient is suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, the therapist might have them practice facing this stressor to help prevent a panic attack.
Patients work with therapists so that they can get to the bottom of why they feel the way they do. Counseling with a therapist is designed to help patients dig deeper. They can help patients plan for uncomfortable feelings so that they can work through them.
Psychologists are more likely to treat patients who have more severe mental or emotional issues. They also often use a type of therapy called CBT or Cognitive Behavior Therapy. This type of therapy is designed to help people change the way they handle things. This type of treatment can also be used by therapists, and it is especially effective when a client’s emotions are the result of their actions.
How to Choose the Right Professional
The first step is to understand what you want and need from this professional. Then, consider how the therapist approaches to therapy. This will help determine the best type of mental health professional.
It is also important to know if the therapist or psychologist has an approach that is flexible or if it is more rigid. More flexible approaches open the door for people to change and grow while they get the help they need.
In the mental health field, there are a lot of words that people use to describe the mental health professionals who can help them. Although some have their Ph.D. and have earned the title of doctor, they aren’t a medical doctor, so they will need to refer you to a psychiatrist if you need a prescription filled.
The most important thing is to make sure that the relationship is positive and has the potential to grow. Talk therapy only works when everything is engaged.
Check out: Therapist Vs. Counselor