Anxiety,  Depression,  Health and Wellness,  Therapy

What is the Difference Between a Therapist and a Psychologist (Mini Series)

Sometimes people throw around terms and give definitions on things that they aren’t exactly clear on. It’s with good intention. Usually. But, what makes this particularly frustrating for me is that sometimes they don’t employ the magic that Google provides when they pass on misinformation. Unfortunately, this can create a lot of confusion for those who really need help finding answers. One of those things that people often get mixed up is the difference between a therapist and a psychologist.

Who cares? They both do stuff for crazy people. Ya’ talk to ’em and they give you medication and then ya’ feel better, right?

Wrong… But kinda right. Just… don’t call people crazy– it’s rude.

There is a clear line of demarcation even though the two worlds can seem pretty much blended together.


Author Note: This is a new series that I want to try out; I haven’t decided on the name, yet, but this is supposed to be a bite-sized article before the main one on Fridays. This segment will help to give me more experience with writing and publishing bi-weekly articles with a deadline. But it will also give you guys one more thing to look forward to during the week if you need that additional help. 🙂

The next 3 posts, including this one in this series, will be sponsored by Better Help.  Please treat these as all of my past and future articles, as my partnership with them does not affect the quality and integrity of my content. These are still resources that are– at the end of the day– meant to help people with an issue that I care deeply about. 

After that, they will be geared toward giving more immediately usable advice, like how to challenge your biases. Or helping you through problems that show up for you during the week, like stress and anger. It’s– I suppose– an hors-d’oeuvre before the entree at the end of the week. 🙂


 

Therapist v. Psychologist.

A therapist is– in most cases– a licensed counselor with a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field. A counselor is a professional that seeks to help people identify and tackle personal problems or difficulties; usually by means of combating troublesome thought patterns and setting realistic goals. They use therapeutic intervention methods to help people through difficult times. For instance, there is play therapy which is used with children, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), psychotherapy, psychoeducation, and much more.

Do keep in mind though that because the title of a therapist can refer to literally anyone who professionally helps other people, a life coach, and debt counselor come to mind, those academic qualifications aren’t always necessary.

On the other hand, “a psychologist is a doctor with a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. A Ph.D. practices either as a clinician, researcher, or both. A Psy.D. only as a clinician,” according to Better Help. “A psychologist can diagnose as well as treat mental health disorders, and will often work with a psychiatrist for certain disorders that manifests with physical or neurological symptoms”. They, unlike psychiatrists who are MDs however, can not prescribe medication in certain states.

A psychologist can informally be called a therapist, but it’s not really accurate as the basis of the two jobs focus on two totally different things and have two completely different education and training requirements.

Here is a quick and dirty list of the things each can do and their educational requirements from AllPsychologySchools.com.

Why does that matter? Why can’t I just pick one at random?

You wouldn’t go to an ophthalmologist for a problem that a cardiologist specializes in. The same applies here. There are certain medical conditions that require different types of specialized attention. Being that your willingness to participate in your treatment is the only way to get better, it is necessary to find someone who can make that transition easier for you.

Like I mentioned earlier, there are conditions that are more resistant to talk therapy and make it hard to deal with your issues. You can probably already guess some– schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and clinical depression, to name a few. These conditions make judgment calls very difficult to make and as such, sometimes you make self-sabotaging decisions that make your life hell. There are a few more listed on the Better Help advice section. So, for more information on that, just visit this link right here.

How can I figure out which one I need?

Well, obviously it depends on you.

Do you need someone to talk to help you figure out your feelings and thoughts? Do you need someone who may be able to provide you with resources relevant your current situation? Do you just want someone to give you advice on what to do with your life? Can you mostly handle your feelings without the need for mind-altering substances? Then, talk therapy may be for you.

Talk therapy is mainly about trying to get you to open up and do some self-reflection. They mostly guide you through a sea of emotions, helping you to wade through thoughts to arrive at the answer you need. They point out negative thoughts and feelings and allow you unpack them. You two work together in a mostly free-form way because your issues aren’t too troublesome for you.

Do you have trouble getting a hold of your thoughts and emotions regularly? Do you often find yourself lost in thought spiraling downward into hopelessness? Do you feel like committing suicide? Do you have a plan to do so? Do you feel more than just sad; maybe alone, numb, empty, or lost? Do you use mind-altering substances to handle your issues? Then, seeing a psychologist may be the right option for you.

Psychologists are better for identifying and diagnosing mental health issues and coming up with a treatment plan that can involve medication and psychotherapy. It’s a more structured interaction with less “guidance” that you’ll have with your psychologist. Psychologist intervention is usually for more serious issues that won’t go away with just talking through it.

Even if you don’t pick the right one, either one of them will refer you to a more appropriate professional. So, it’s OK if you get it wrong at first. Regardless of what you chose, you’re on your way to getting the help that you deserve.

In case you need some help while you mull over which one to choose, head over to this article that I wrote a few months ago to help you in the interim. It’s chock full of resources that I’ve used over the years and also found to be useful for coping. Plus, this article on gratitude and resiliency can also help you to manage your stress. Do keep in mind that, if you do need professional help, this is not a substitute for that.


I almost always have trouble finding ways to end my articles because I like to talk all day long. Brevity is not my forte. So, apologies if it ended a bit weird. I feel like it did.

I hope that this was short enough for you and that this is a welcomed addition to your week. I love learning and writing about mental health topics, so this was a treat to write anyway.

Next week in this mini-series I’ll be discussing how to find a nearby therapist. So, stay tuned!

I hope this helps you on your journey. 🙂

Peace and peace,

Althia

Hi, I'm Althia! I love psychology have a particular obsession with promoting mental health. That being said, I have one specific goal that I want to achieve. I want to help millennials to finess mental illness and inspire personal growth one motivational & informational post at a time.

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