Updated: Jan 4
Defining The Different Mental Health Professionals
What’s the difference between a “therapist,” “counselor,” “psychologist,” and “psychiatrist”?
It can be easy to confuse these terms when trying to figure out what you need.
So let’s unpack these a little bit!
Taken to the most basic level, the main differences between a counselor, psychologist, and psychiatrist are levels of schooling and focus. However, there are other factors that add to each role.
Counselor/ Therapist = Mental Health Professional
In the mental or emotional health realm, the word counselor most commonly refers to a master’s level clinician – someone who has completed an accredited, graduate level program focused on clinical mental health. Most states have many requirements for counselors to become Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC). These requirements can include internships, passing the National Counselor Exam (NCE), supervision, hundreds of hours of experience, and others. An LPC is able to diagnose mental health issues. A counselor provides psychotherapy to help their clients to find healing and to work through various emotional and relational issues. They use talk therapy, behavioral techniques, trauma therapy, family mapping, and a plethora of theories to help clients face and unpack different issues and struggles they face in life. A counselor can also be referred to as a therapist.
Psychologist = Doctorate Level Therapist
A psychologist is a doctoral level clinician. They can also be a Licensed Professional Counselor. However, they have completed not only a Master’s level program but also their doctorate. They have often done extensive research and have had a longer time studying mental health. They can do all of the things the counselor does. They also do a wide range of assessments such as for intelligence and testing for learning disabilities. They have also earned the right to be called “Dr.” They can also diagnose and provide psychotherapy. And, they can be called therapists or counselors.
Psychiatrist = Medical Doctor
A psychiatrist is also a doctoral level clinician, however they are also medical doctors. They have gone through Medical School. A psychiatrist uses their medical knowledge to help a client. They are the Mental Health Professional who can prescribe medication. While other medical doctors may also prescribe medication for mental health, a psychiatrist has specialized knowledge in this area. Each person is different and a psychiatrist is highly trained in being able to help their patients to find the right medication for their emotional needs – if medication is needed. A psychiatrist may also provide psychotherapy for their clients. Often they focus on the medication side and partner with a counselor to work through the client’s emotional or relational struggles.
All three of these categories of Mental Health Professionals are vital to the wellbeing of our communities. Often, they work together to provide a wide framework of services in a community setting. We at Remain Connected are focused as Counselors and Therapists. If you are looking to find out who is best for you to see, don’t hesitate to reach out. We would love to partner with you in your journey towards healing!