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If you’re struggling with whether to pursue psychology or be a counsellor instead, there are some marked differences which might make your decision a bit easier. From differing educational levels to unique practice scopes, we’ll spell out the differences in skills between a psychologist vs counsellor.
Education & Training
Out of the two, psychologists are more highly trained. They typically have a doctoral degree (PhD or PsyD) in psychology. And this is an extensive course of study with theoretical training, research and practical work. Throughout schooling, they seek to understand various psychological theories, assessment methods and therapeutic techniques so they can operate from a clinical perspective. However, they’re still not a medical doctor and cannot prescribe medication.
Conversely, most counsellors have up to a master's degree in counselling or a related field. They’ll focus on theories and techniques with hands-on work providing counselling services only. It’s also not a medical qualification and they often specialise in talking treatments, doing no clinical research.
While psychologists work within hospital, clinical or research settings, counsellors work out of softer locations like schools, private practices and counselling centres. They often won’t provide a diagnosis and their goal is to help people work through their own issues through traditional counselling methods. On the other hand, psychologists can not only diagnose mental illness but can recommend a wider range of therapeutic treatment methods in addition to holding research trials in the name of medical advancement. So these are very different professions on a day-to-day basis.
For most people, counselling is effective even if it’s modal or based on traditional practices like Chinese Medicine. Their approach might include person-centred therapy, solution-focused brief therapy or career counselling. However, if you’re wanting to help people with severe cases of mental illness or trauma, you’ll probably want to pursue psychology. Psychologists are trained in a wide range of evidence-based therapeutic approaches. This will include treatments like cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, humanistic therapy and more. It’s a scientific approach where different therapies are combined to address their client’s specific needs holistically.
Research & Assessment
Lastly, since psychologists achieve a higher level of training, they are exposed to other skills like research methods and statistical analysis. This allows them to conduct psychological research and contribute to the scientific understanding of mental health issues overall. If you’ve ever participated in a clinical study on mental illness, you’ve probably interacted with a psychologist. They’ll use this advanced expertise to administer and interpret psychological assessments and tests.
However, while counsellors may be familiar with research findings and may use assessments in their practice, their training is generally less focused on research. They will likely not have any qualifications to run clinical trials and will have spent less time focusing on this area, compared to psychologists.
So, based on that explanation, have you made any decisions? Which path is right for you?