Psychotherapist vs Psychologist: Understanding the Difference

Wondering about the difference between a psychotherapist and a psychologist?

Both psychotherapy and psychology are focused on talking with patients to improve mental health and work through problems. While there are some similarities between these mental health professionals, there are also some key differences.

If you are seeking help with issues such as depression or anxiety, it’s important to understand these difference so that you can make an informed decision on the type of help most suited to your situation.

What is a Psychotherapist?

A psychotherapist is a mental health professional working in the field of psychotherapy. They have specialist training, usually with an undergraduate degree in healthcare and three to four years of training in psychotherapy specifically.

Psychotherapy is focused on helping people to understand aspects of themselves. When you work with a psychotherapist, they will assist you to explore your past experiences and the ways that these have shaped you into the person you are today. Psychotherapy is an evidence-based way of working, that draws on interpersonal and relational models of working with people. It can be useful to people in all walks of life.

Psychotherapists do not utilise medications to assist patients. Rather, psychotherapy approaches are “talking therapies”, which focus on fostering trust and understanding between the practitioner and the client and working through issues using different methods.

Some common approaches used by psychotherapists include:

What is a Psychologist?

Psychology is a broad area that is concerned with the mind and the ways that people think and act. Many people will study psychology but not go on to work directly with patients in a clinical setting. Psychology focuses on the functioning of the mind and understanding things like how children’s minds develop, how we learn and remember, and how we react and interact.

Psychologists are not medically qualified; it is possible to study psychology directly out of school. Most psychologists who work with patients in the mental health space have completed additional training.

Psychologists can specialise in a variety of areas, including clinical psychology, counselling, and health psychology. They often work in schools, aged care settings, rehabilitation programs, and other areas.

The Difference Between a Psychologist and Psychotherapist

There are some similarities between psychotherapists and psychologists, but there are also key differences between the two specialisations.

Both psychotherapists and psychologists perform talk therapy, focusing on understanding clients by talking through issues and experiences. People who are experiencing mental health disorders including anxiety and depression can benefit from working with both psychotherapy and psychology professionals.

An important distinction between psychotherapists and psychologists is that psychotherapists are medically qualified, with an undergraduate degree in a health-related area. Psychologists do not require this background to practice psychology. Often a psychotherapist will have studied psychology before moving on to specialise in psychotherapy.

It is also worth noting that both psychotherapists and psychologists are different to psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are medically-trained and hold a doctorate degree in medicine. This means they are able to prescribe medication to assist with managing mental illnesses.

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