Home Articles What is the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Therapist?

What is the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Therapist?

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Psychologist vs. Therapist: Education and Career Differences Explained

The terms therapist and psychologist are often used interchangeably. Though both types of counseling professions describe similar careers in the behavioral health field, there are significant differences to be understood. In this comparison it should also be understood we are not including the realm of “physical therapists” which of course is a related field dealing with the physical rehabilitation concerns of health and not the psychological factors related to the role of a psychologist.

While the two positions are similar in nature and focus on helping people by providing support and guidance to clients, the main distinction is that both professions often require different types and lengths of experience and levels of education.

Therapist in Session Talking to PatientSo here’s the lowdown:

What’s a Therapist

A therapist is a person who provides rehabilitation and treatment to people with behavioral health issues or symptoms. Therapists can include family and marriage counselors, social workers, direct care staff in group homes, life coaches, psychiatrists and psychologists.

At least a Bachelor’s level education is required to become a therapist. A therapist can earn a Bachelor’s degree in various fields such as sociology, psychology and applied behavioral sciences. Once your initial degree is in line, you will move toward licensure, if needed. These requirements will depend on the type of employment and level of interaction you will have with clients. As a general rule, the more in-depth your interaction, the more education you will likely need.

Therapists can also hold Master’s and Doctorate level degrees, such as psychiatrists and psychologists.

Here’s a big distinction:

Therapists are not able to practice independently and must work within a practice and have a clinical supervisor.

What Makes A Psychologist A Psychologist?

A psychologist must hold an advanced degree in psychology. This means a psychologist is educated at the Master’s level, and must also be licensed to hold the professional title of ‘psychologist’. Psychologists often provide direct counseling to clients, so they must possess a required amount of hours of supervised therapy with clients before they can independently practice.

Psychologists hold clinical positions such as school social worker, licensed counselor, hospital social worker, etc. Psychologists often work in partnership with a psychiatrist in diagnosing and treating patients. Psychologists can also diagnose disorders and problems in patients and then treat clients based on the diagnosis and clinical observations.

So, The Basic Deal Is This…

While both psychologists and therapists work with patients to provide support and guidance in making decisions and changing behaviors, there are some big differences that separate the two.

Get this:

A psychologist can be a therapist, but a therapist can’t always be classified as a psychologist.

Big differences can be found in the financial compensation for each position. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), Psychologists, who hold at least a Master’s degree make a mean annual wage of $93,050 per year. Meanwhile, therapists, working with a Bachelor’s degree, make a mean annual wage of $42,920 per year.

Not surprising, but still…

What it all comes down to, when you are trying to decide between becoming a psychologist and a therapist, is how long you want to stay in school.

If you are ready to choose, contact schools on our site that offer the program you want to attend most. If you are still just trying to decide, explore some more, and check out more info on curriculum, licensing and job options.

We’re here to help you make the best choice for your goals, so take your time…

We aren’t going anywhere.

Ms. Dunning has over 5 years of experience working with at-risk youth and vulnerable populations, has served as a family drug court case manager for the Oklahoma County Department of Mental Health Services and Oklahoma County Child Welfare Services, and enjoys educating the public about psychology and the criminal justice system.

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