4 MIN READ | General

James Wallace

What’s the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Psychotherapist

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James Wallace, (2018, November 19). What’s the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Psychotherapist. Psychreg on General. https://www.psychreg.org/difference-between-psychologist-psychotherapist/
Reading Time: 4 minutes

At some point, we will have the classic confusion about the difference between a psychologist and a psychotherapist. However, it is relatively easy to identify the difference between a psychologist and a psychotherapist.

Psychotherapist vs psychologist

A psychotherapist is a person who, being a physician or psychologist, has also made a special training (from a psychotherapy school, then they practised supervised psychotherapy. The first known psychotherapist was Sigmund Freud, and the first psychotherapy school was psychoanalysis.

Today there are many psychotherapy schools, many divergent, all of emphasising the relationship with the client (the psychotherapist has clients, not patients) which only involves conversation – take speech therapy for example – not drugs or other forms of medical therapy.

Psychotherapy is a psychological intervention – a mechanism that aims to address health and illness. In other words, psychotherapy helps you resolve some emotional issues or modify certain aspects that make you vulnerable. So, if you have a problem with anxiety, depression, eating disorders or other similar issues, you need to ask for a psychotherapist’s support. Besides taking serious consultation from the psychotherapist, you can also get gifts to soothe anxiety for yourself.

Usually, the visits are made for a longer period of time on a weekly schedule by seeing the psychotherapist 1 or 2 times per week. You can meet them especially at psychological clinics but also in other contexts – hospitals, clinics, foundations, etc.

A psychologist is someone who has an academic qualification in psychology and deals, in general, with the study of the human mind. In fact, this domain is far too vast, so psychologists usually specialise in various branches: psychopathology (psychological anomaly), behavioural, social, educational, even organisational psychology – the list goes on, and it’s very long.

Psychologists also come in contact with patients, contributing to their assessment. in other words, if you have panic attacks it is advisable to look for a psychologist specialised in clinical psychology and psychotherapy.

In the same vein that if you want to be tested for the driving school exam, you will go to a psychologist specialised in the psychology of transport and services or if I want to change your job or you want to see what type of work is the best fit for you, then you should ask for help from a specialist in educational psychology, school, or vocational counselling.

Why is there confusion?

The truth is that often the domains intersect quite a bit. Officially and unofficially – officially, because a psychiatrist may be a psychotherapist or even a psychologist; in fact, in this case any combination is possible. Unofficially, because it’s often hard to pull a line and say: ‘Here is my domain, come here or consult another specialist’.

One major difference between psychiatrists and clinical psychologists is that psychiatrists have the strength of using and knowing the pharmacotherapy domain, which belongs exclusively to them because only a doctor can prescribe medications. The presence of the psychiatrist is always necessary for great psychological pathologies, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.

But if psychiatrists deal with mental disorders, are not they actually in clinical psychology? And if a psychotherapist treats mental suffering, is not that a kind of medicine?

Various studies say that psychological therapy depends upon the quality of the relationship between the therapist and the client.

Beyond that, only the very targeted therapies to a specific problem (such as cognitive-behavioural therapy) are suitable for scientific studies such as those in psychiatry which, like all branches of medicine, should be based on very solid evidence. So, if you try to see, for example, looking for types of freelance writing jobs which can help you with some extra advice, what kind of psychotherapy would suit you best, it might not at all be that easy.

And things get more and more complicated when all the other candidates for the healing role of the mind come into play. So, it’s not always easy to turn to the right person. Do not despair, however, because the main actor in the therapeutic act is neither the psychiatrist, nor the psychologist, nor the psychotherapist. The protagonist is you. And the most important part of the therapeutic act is the desire for the better. 

Role of a psychotherapist

  • Provides a solution to your problem
  • Helps you get better
  • Engage in dialogue
  • Processes communication
  • Implements behaviour change

Role of a psychologist

  • Helps you identify why you have a problem
  • Helps you identify what caused the problem
  • Helps you understand How you discovered this problem
  • Helps you identify what your motivations are
  • They cannot prescribe medications

Who to choose?

Ideally, the psychiatrist, psychologist and psychotherapist are working with your mind, perspective and your ideas. They can make you feel better about yourself and create that special state of mind which can bring you stability and emotional balance.

All you need to do is to look for that person, either we are talking about a psychological professional or a psychiatrist one, with which you are feeling comfortable, and you are not having any problems in communicating and telling all your problems. In the end, communication is the key for pretty much everything, but even more important when this is the main tool which can make a difference in your life. This is also one of the popular psychology dissertation topics.

So, it’s not your job to know in advance where to go. If you have a problem, ask any accredited professional of mental health. And he will guide you as far as possible. If the psychotherapist thinks he deserves to see a psychiatrist, he will tell you this, and vice versa.

James Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.

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