Psychologist vs Clinical Psychologist

What Is The Difference Between a Psychologist and Clinical Psychologist?

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Written by Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

10 Jul, 2023

When stepping into the world of therapy in 2024, one of the most overwhelming roadblocks many people face is understanding which type of therapist to work with and where to find them

As you first start your research, you’ll find there are numerous different types of therapists to choose from. 

At first, you might consider a general psychologist, or, you may lean towards a psychologist with a more specific scope (such as a clinical psychologist). 

Understanding the difference between psychologists will help you better discern which is the best fit for you, and what you should expect from treatment. 

So, what’s the difference between a psychologist and a clinical psychologist? Let’s explore.

Psychologist

No matter where in Australia you live, every psychologist must be registered with the Australian Board of Psychology. The Australian Board of Psychology requires 4 years of University, along with 2 years of hands-on, supervised clinic work. A registered psychologist is a professional that has met the Board’s minimum standards, as well as continuously building upon their knowledge by attending yearly education training. 

General Psychologists make up 60% of Australia’s Psychological workforce and are used to assess, diagnose and treat a wide range of individual or group problems. 

Psychologists that obtain a general registration can work in several diverse settings such as mental health, education and training, drug abuse, marketing and communication, technology, and public policy. 

When it comes to a general psychologist, there is no one specific focus, making them incredibly versatile.

Clinical Psychologist

A clinical psychologist has the same foundation of training as a general psychologist does, however, a clinical psychologist will have studied a Master’s or Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. 

One of the biggest differences between a clinical psychologist and a general psychologist is their area of expertise. 

Clinical psychologists have a much more specific scope of practice, largely working with clients suffering from mental health conditions, as they are extensively trained on identifying, diagnosing and treating mental illnesses ranging from mild to severe. For example, clinical psychology has a more intense focus on assessment and the clinical psychologist training process prepares incoming clinical psychologists for work with psychiatric patients (as well as more general mental health problems). 

Similar to a general psychologist, clinical psychologists are required to attend ongoing training and education, to stay relevant in the ever-changing world of mental health.

Can a psychologist or clinical psychologist prescribe medication?

While able to give a diagnosis and recommendation, neither a clinical psychologist nor a general psychologist can prescribe medication. This can only be done by either a medical doctor or a psychiatrist. 

Is a clinical psychologist better than a psychologist?

The quality of a psychologist is not necessarily determined by their education. Whether they’re a clinical psychologist or psychologist should only play a small part in considering which one is the right one for you.

The psychologist that will best suit your needs is one who has experience in the area you’re seeking help for, will be able to cultivate a close relationship with you, will help you make positive changes and will be meticulous in creating your treatment.

There may be no real advantage or disadvantage in seeing a psychologist versus a clinical psychologist. However, by choosing a clinical psychologist meas that you will selecting a psychologist who will have completed a postgraduate degree in Clinical Psychology. A clinical psychologist will also have completed a registrar program, which requires two years of post-study work experience with intense supervision and professional development.

What is the Medicare rebate for a clinical psychologist and a psychologist in 2024?

The Medicare rebate in 2024 for a clinical psychologist is more than for a general or registered psychologist. Currently, a clinical psychologist attracts a rebate of $137.05 and a registered psychologist has a Medicare rebate of $93.35. You can also use your Medicare rebate to see a social worker who has a Medicare rebate of $82.30. You can read more about the Medicare process on our dedicated support page.

On Talked, all psychologists regardless of whether a clinical psychologist or registered psychologist set their own fee, so the gap fee may differ on whether you see a psychologist or clinical psychologist. Our helpful infographic shows you how much the gap fee will be once your Medicare rebate has been claimed.

Which One Is Right For Me?

While the different educational backgrounds of a registered psychologist and clinical psychologist means that they focus on different areas of psychology, they only form one part of their competencies. Another big part of what influences a psychologist’s competency in particular areas of mental health is the focus of their work experience. Therefore, no matter if you choose a more general approach, or you have specific concerns you’d like to address, there are clear guidelines and expectations set by the Australian Psychological Code of Ethics ensuring respect and empathy for each patient. 

Start by asking yourself a few questions: What are the issues I would like help with? How often am I able to meet? Am I looking for long term therapy or short term help with a recent problem? How much does each cost? Where can I find a psychologist near me? There are plenty of tips out there on how to receive help.

One general rule of thumb in finding the best psychologist for you is to search for a psychologist who is:

  • understands and has expertise in the area you are seeking support for;

  • accepting, kind and warm; and

  • able to deeply empathise and articulate your feelings and difficulties.

However, if you’re struggling with a mental illness, you don’t have to suffer alone. It is important that if you are looking for support that you take the first step, whether it is with a psychologist or a clinical psychologist.

At Talked we have provided a helpful step-by-step guide to getting a mental health treatment plan in 2024.

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Emma Reliason

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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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