Counselling v psychology

Counselling Vs. Psychology


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Written by Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

10 May, 2022

If you’re looking for some extra help in a difficult season of your life, or maybe you’re ready to take a big step in personal growth, you may be wondering, “what’s the difference between counselling and psychology?”

While looking online, you’ll often see these two terms used interchangeably. However, they have very different meanings. 

While counsellors and psychologists in Australia have similarities, there are distinct differences that set them apart in the mental health field. 

Let’s take a look at what the differences are when it comes to counselling vs. psychology so that you, too, can understand which is best for you. 

Similarities Between Counselling and Psychology:

When it comes to counselling and psychology, think of them as fraternal twins

While they may have quite a few surface level similarities, enjoy the same hobbies, and act in similar mannerisms, they are two different people with two different sets of skills, talents, and goals.

Both counsellors and psychologists are in the field of mental health, and both provide services to clients struggling with their emotional and mental needs. 

Both counsellors and psychologists aim to help support and guide their clients through life’s difficulties and assist in helping them overcome debilitating circumstances. 

Counsellors and psychologists alike typically work in one-on-one client meetings and engage in talk therapy

Lastly, while both are trained in numerous methods of therapy, neither a counsellor nor a psychologist prescribes medication. 


While counsellors have similar roles as psychologists do, there are quite a few distinct that need to be made. 


Firstly, counselling isn’t nearly as rigorously regulated as psychology is. 

In Australia, a counsellor may only have taken a few courses such as the Diploma Of Counselling, in which students are taught the skills to communicate effectively with their clients. However, the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia does require 350 minimum hours of hands-on training, plus 50 hours of supervision over a 3 year period. 

Scope Of Practice:

When it comes to their scope of practice, most counsellors work in a general field such as marriage or family counselling or work with clients individually dealing with a sudden, (typically short term) life difficulty. 

Counsellors work with clients to process intense emotions such as anger or grief and assist them in understanding why they feel this way. 

In addition, counsellors can assist clients in making life decisions by helping them better see all angles of a situation. 

Who Benefits From Counselling?

If counselling sounds more like what you’re looking for, you may be wondering specifics as to what situations are an ideal fit for counselling. People may look for counselling for a variety of reasons, but the most common are:


A counsellor's goal is to empower and enable their clients to develop healthy coping skills to take home with them, guide them through difficult seasons of their lives, and educate them on healthy tools to use in their everyday relationships. In addition, a counsellor aims to address any negative thinking patterns and allow the client to see how they affect everyday situations. 


Psychology is a much more specific branch of counselling. While still meeting with clients and empowering them to better their lives, there are some unique differences:


In Australia, psychologists are required to be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia and listed with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency

In order to practice legally, they must have attended 6 years of University, plus 1 year of a board-certified internship, as well as consistently attending ongoing education training. 

This is just the bare minimum, and most psychologists further their education. 

Scope Of Practice:

While psychologists have similar methods of care to that of a counsellor, psychologists are trained in psychotherapy - a much deeper look at the inner workings and wounds of a client. 

By reflecting on a client’s past, a psychotherapist aims to uncover any unconscious triggers to reveal the root cause of their problems. This could be childhood trauma or the past abuse that has not been overcome by the client.

In addition, psychologists are heavily involved in both research and clinical studies and have a wide range of practical skills, useful in a variety of settings.

Psychologists may work in the field of education, providing training and knowledge to others in mental health careers. They also may work as a behavioural scientist, or in human resources.

Who Benefits From Psychologists?

While psychologists do work with both mental illness, and healthy clients, they often have a specific clientele dependent on their training. 

There are various types of psychologists such as general psychologists, sports and exercise, organisational, health, forensic, educational, developmental, community, clinical, and clinical neuropsychologists. 

Typically, a psychologist will work alongside a client long-term to ensure all of their inner self-work is effective. 


When it comes to working with clients one-on-one with psychotherapy, the goal of a psychologist is to free their clients from underlying triggers and wounds, in order for them to lead a healthy, fulfilling life. 

In a nutshell, the umbrella of psychology has a universal goal of understanding the processes that make up human behaviour and then applying them to clients in order to help them solve life’s problems. 

Counselling vs. Psychology - Now You Know…

So, when it comes down to it, counsellors and psychologists have their similarities, yet they are quite different. 

Counsellors aim to help clients through talk therapy and other methods of practice, while psychologists use specific interventions such as psychotherapy to address core issues. 

Counsellors aren’t able to narrow their scope of practice the way psychologists can, however, they still do undergo training.

If you need guidance in any of life’s sudden curveballs, counselling may be the best option for you. 

If you’re looking to understand yourself better, uncover any past trauma, or address your triggers head-on, psychology is likely the path to take. 

No matter what differences they may have, both professionals work day in and day out to help make their clients' lives better.

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Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

Emma is an accomplished writer with a passion for mental health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology where she gained insight into why people think, feel and behave the way they do.

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