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Psychotherapist Vs. Psychologist: What's the difference?

Counselling

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Written by Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

03 May, 2022

When searching online for mental health services in Australia, there’s a good chance you may end up more confused than when you started. 

After a bit of time, you come across a branch of psychology called psychotherapy. Deciding this sounds exactly like what you need, you decide to keep looking into it. 

Upon further research, you find each website tends to overlap one another and you might be overwhelmed as to understanding the differences. 

Psychotherapy and psychology are quite similar, as psychotherapy is a branch of psychology - however, a psychotherapist is not a psychologist. 

So, which one is best for you?

Stick with me as we dive into the differences between these two professions.

How Is A Psychotherapist Similar To A Psychologist?

Psychotherapy is actually a branch of psychology. Psychology is the study of more broad topics related to human behaviour and thinking, whereas psychotherapy is the study of specific techniques used to help clients live their best life. 

Both psychotherapy and psychology have the dedication to establishing a strong relationship with the client. Both meet with individuals on a weekly basis and care deeply about helping them meet their goals and healing their inner wounds. 

There is often great confusion because sometimes the job titles overlap.

However, while a psychologist can be trained in methods of psychotherapy, a psychotherapist is not a psychologist. Following?

Psychotherapist:

A psychotherapist will either start out as a physician, or a psychologist and move towards a more specific scope of practice first founded by Sigmund Freud, called psychotherapy. 

A psychotherapist is educated and trained in psychological intervention techniques with an end goal of resolving inner emotional issues. In order to overcome surface level problems, psychotherapy dives deeper into why a client may feel or act a certain way based on their past.

What Techniques Does A Psychotherapist Use?

There are many different types of psychotherapy techniques, all with the same end goal: to guide a client through their subconscious mind in order to resolve past trauma, enhance their life, and overcome their struggles.

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: By allowing the patient to talk freely, a psychotherapist can analyse the link between a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions and how they impact their wellbeing and perception of the world.

  • Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy: Same techniques as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are used, however mindfulness tactics are implemented. This can be activities such as journaling, meditation or yoga.

  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy: Another branch off from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, this type not only analyzes a clients thinking but integrates positive behaviours to manage stress and emotions in a healthier way. 

  • Interpersonal Therapy: This type of therapy is an attachment focused therapy centred around the connection between personal relationships and life difficulties/mental illnesses.

  • Supportive Psychology: The most basic form of talk therapy. Supportive psychology focuses on allowing the client to talk freely about their mental health struggles and receive advice, encouragement and support. 

  • Family Therapy: Through the understanding that families function as a whole unit, family therapy aims to repair broken relationships and heal wounds. 

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Through the lens of ‘radical acceptance’ this type of therapy guides a client in accepting difficult or stressful life circumstances and responding in more positive ways. 

  • Psychodynamic Therapy: One of the most intense forms of therapy, a client is pushed to uncover why negative thinking patterns and behaviours arose in the first place. 

Who Should See A Psychotherapist?

With all the various techniques used, there are many situations in which seeing a psychotherapist is beneficial. These could be:

Benefits Of Psychotherapy:

Research has been done to prove that in 75% of patients, psychotherapy relieved many distressing symptoms, helped clients understand themselves better, and provided them with healthy coping mechanisms for life down the road. 

Many people never get the chance to sit with their trauma and work through it in a positive way. More often than not, people cope with past hurt through unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs, alcohol, or sex. By allowing yourself the time and space to work through difficult memories of the past, you’re freeing your mind of any negative feelings you’re still holding on to. 

Psychotherapy has been shown to improve the way clients understand themselves, repair communication methods, and enhance healthy decision making skills. 

Psychologist:

When it comes to the nitty-gritty study of the human mind, behaviours, thoughts, decisions, and mental health, this is where a psychologist comes in. 

While a psychologist does work with individual clients one-on-one, they can also be specialised in specific areas of expertise, work in group settings, conduct research, or build their career through education. 

What Exactly Does A Psychologist Do?

When it comes to the social role of a psychologist, there are a few key points:

  • Helps clients identify why they have a problem

  • Helps clients identify what circumstances caused this problem 

  • Helps clients understand how this problem has manifested in their life

  • Helps clients understand what their goals are

As you can see, a psychologist is more general in terms of helping clients work through their distressing events. While a psychotherapist is more specific and intense, a psychologist is more broad and allows plenty of room for the client to lead the way. 

When it comes to the scientific role of a psychologist, this can be:

  • Studying individual case studies 

  • Studying groups

  • Conducting ethical research 

  • Conduct assessments or tests

  • Studying mental and biological drives

  • Investigate methods of learning, and teaching, and develop better ways to learn in educational settings.

Who Should See A Psychologist?

There are many reasons why people seek help from a psychologist

Benefits of Psychology:

There are many benefits to taking the step in meeting with a psychologist. 

Self-care plans are individualised and unique to you, so you know you’re getting exactly what you need. 

  • Learn how to establish better boundaries 

  • Learn how to develop an inner resilience 

  • Learn healthy coping skills

  • Improve close relationships 

  • Improve communication strategies 

  • Manage your stress easier 

  • Understand how to control your emotions and behaviours 

  • Learn how to calmly resolve conflict

  • Learn how to decrease reliance on drugs or alcohol 

So, What’s The Difference?

When it comes down to it, whether you choose a psychotherapist or a psychologist, the biggest factor you need to take into consideration is how far you’re willing to go to heal. 

If you have pressing issues on the surface such as job tension, relationship struggles, or parenting problems, you may want to just deal with that individual situation. 

If you want to go through a large-scale, inner transformation to understand why you do the things you do, and behave the way you behave, psychotherapy may be the best fit. 

It’s always a good idea to take the time and assess your inner subconscious mind, however some people may not be ready quite yet and it takes patience and effort to reach that state. 

No matter what the situation is, you can find support, understanding, guidance and care through one of these trained professionals.

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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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