For many people, deciding to pursue therapy is a big step. You have to be willing to admit you need help, and you have to be willing to work on your issues in a real and personal way. While this decision is essential, it is only the first decision you must make on your journey to wellness. Next, you must decide who to see for your therapy, which starts by understanding the fundamental differences between psychologists and counsellors.
They Have Different Educations
Both psychologists and counsellors must have a solid educational background. However, the specifics of that education vary widely. In general, a psychologist and a counsellor both have to pass specific criteria. However, counsellor’s guidelines are much looser. There is usually a certification test, but the required schooling is much more general. A psychologist, on the other hand, must hold a degree specific to the field. A psychology degree includes rigorous coursework with a focus on psychological research. Moreover, psychology degrees include hours of supervised time working with patients, which makes a psychologist better prepared to deal with a range of mental illnesses. A counsellor merely trains to talk to patients. While counsellors also perform clinical training, it is much more limited. Counsellors may prepare for two years with patients, but a psychologist has four years of clinical experience before obtaining his or her degree.
They Work with Different Specializations
Along with education, you should look at differences in the specialization. A counsellor typically trains to work with anyone who walks through the door. In many cases, a counsellor helps with family disputes, provides general coaching for anxiety or simply talks people through issues. While these services have value, they do not offer the depth of a psychologist. A psychologist has specialization in certain types of counselling. For example, there are specializations such as Clinical Psychology, Business Psychology, Educational Psychology, Forensic Psychology and more. This specialization allows a psychologist to offer more advanced and nuanced care. Psychologists are also better equipped to help people with mental illness.
They Offer Different Treatments
Given these other factors, it is no surprise that you get different treatment options from a counsellor and a psychologist. A counsellor often serves primarily as a person to talk to about issues. The sessions are mainly discussion-based, and they largely are dictated by the patient’s concerns at the time. The treatment you get from a psychologist can be more targeted. To start with, a psychologist has better tools to provide a mental illness diagnosis. Then, the psychologist can build an appropriate treatment plan to deal with that diagnosis. A psychologist may also be able to offer specific methodologies. Options include cognitive behavioural therapy, psychoanalysis, integrative therapy and more.
What About Psychiatrists?
There are other options to consider when it comes to therapy. For example, you may also wonder about psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are even more distinct. A psychiatrist is a doctor who has gone to medical school. After medical school, a psychiatrist must complete specialized training in a clinical setting. A psychiatrist looks at how mental health interacts with physical health. A psychiatrist will also be able to monitor physical conditions alongside one’s mental health to provide more comprehensive care. Because of this advanced training, not everyone needs the support of a psychiatrist. However, if you are experiencing advanced mental health issues that conflate with other physical conditions, then you may want to look into your options.
Picking the Right Therapy for You
There are plenty of reasons to visit any one of these professionals. As you consider your options, think about the scope of your issues and the type of support you would like to receive. If you are looking for someone to talk through issues with you and provide general support, a counsellor may be a great choice. However, if you are concerned about deeper problems or think you have a mental illness, then you may opt for a psychologist. In either case, reaching out to a professional to start therapy can be an important decision that changes your life for the better.