Differences Between a Psychologist and a Therapist — Which One to Choose?

Psychology and psychotherapy

When you are in need of mental health treatment, choosing between a psychologist or a therapist can make a lot of difference. Frequently, this decision often left up to your medical insurance, meaning that the least expensive will be chosen. However, choosing the right one is a decision that should go well beyond finding the cheapest one. Depending on the nature of the problem, in fact, only the most appropriate professional could be able to help you.

Let’s have a look at the key differences between a therapist and a psychologist.

The Psychologist

A psychologist is a doctor who is trained to study mental processes, diagnose and treat mental health disorders and, in some instances, even prescribe medications. Psychologists always hold a degree, usually a master’s or a doctorate (Ph.D. or Psy.D.), even though in some rare cases they might also be bachelor’s degree holders. They work in a variety of clinical settings side by side with psychiatrists, and are required to complete several years of supervised practice before obtaining a license to practice.

Psychologists are trained social scientists who underwent rigorous training during their education process. They can diagnose mental disorders and behavioral problems, and work with other medical doctors to determine the most appropriate pharmacological treatment. Some of them are even licensed to prescribe medications on their own.

The Therapist

The term therapist encompasses many different professionals that hold some form of degree in their field, whose role is to help and counsel people in need of guidance and support. Therapists can be counselors, social workers, life coaches and other qualified individuals which may hold a degree in social sciences. In some states such as California, the therapist is a protected title requiring licensure to operate. Although therapists lack the in-depth clinical knowledge that psychologists possess, their different backgrounds give them access to a much wider spectrum of potential models for counseling.

Their primary job is to provide therapeutic interventions for patients who suffer from a manageable form of mood disorder. Even when you choose a psychologist, in fact, if your problem could be handled through talk or behavioral therapy, you might be eventually referred to a therapist. Therapists are also the right choice whenever your mental health has improved dramatically and you’re diligent enough to self-direct yourself.

The bottom line

As is the case with all medical professions, don’t forget that ultimately the ability of the specific provider you chose is what matters most. There are both extremely experienced individuals and incompetent ones out there, regardless of their specialization or title. Always be careful in your choice of mental health provider, and try to find out more about their education and experience before seeking treatment. But when you finally made a decision, rest assured that you’re going to change your life for the better.

Article by Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D.