Should I See A Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Therapist, or Counselor?

One of the most common questions patients have when looking for therapy services on is who should I visit? A psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor? Is there even a difference? The answers are it depends on your needs, and yes, there is a difference. There are many types of mental and behavioral healthcare providers and each has unique training and skill sets that allow them to address specific concerns. In this post, we’ll review the different types of clinicians you may find on, their training, and the services they provide. If you ever have questions or need our help finding the right practitioner, please call us at 1-888-Therapy. We’re here to help!

What is a Psychologist?

A psychologist has advanced training in assessing cognitive abilities like memory, attention, and intelligence, as well as personality, emotional, and relational processes. Psychologist are experts in evaluating and treating behavioral or mental health disorders through psychological testing and various types of counseling. There are several types of psychologists, such as clinical psychologists, school psychologists, social psychologists and neuropsychologists. Many have developed areas of specialization and provide supervision, consultation, and training to other clinicians.

How are Psychologists Qualified? 

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
  • Doctor of Psychology
  • Licensure by state and/or federal agencies

What do Psychologists Do? 

  • Psychological Evaluation
  • Counseling/Therapy
  • Family & Group Therapy
  • Classes for educating patients
  • Research
  • Program Evaluation
  • Consultation 
  • Supervision

What is a Psychiatrist? 

A psychiatrist is a practitioner who has doctoral training in the branch of medicine devoted to the diagnosis, prevention, study, and treatment of mental disorders. Their training focuses on diagnoses and using medication to treat behavioral or mental health conditions. Some do offer counseling and therapy services, but to a lesser extent than psychologists, therapists, and counselors.

How are Psychiatrists Qualified? 

  • Doctor of Medicine in Psychiatry
  • Licensure through state and/or federal agencies

What do Psychiatrists Do? 

  • Psychiatric Evaluation
  • Medication Management
  • Counseling
  • Supervision

What is a Therapist or Counselor? 

Therapist and counselor are terms that can be used interchangeably. These two titles may also be applied generically to other clinicians (psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers), but there is a difference in the level of training and type of licensure. Therapists or counselors are trained in various types of counseling approaches and styles designed to assist individuals in overcoming life struggles or mental/behavioral disorders. Counselors receive general training, and then, some develop expertise and specializations in specific areas after finishing their required education.

How are Therapists & Counselors Qualified? 

  • Master of Science in Psychology, Therapy, Counseling, or a related field 
  • Licensed Professional Counselor
  • Licensed Associate Counselor

What do Therapists & Counselors Do? 

  • Individual Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Family Counseling
  • Classes for educating parents and children
  • Supervision
  • Other Types of Clinicians

What is a Social Worker?

Social workers provide many of the same services that are provided by counselors or therapists. However, their training and treatment goals are often different. Following training, they work with individuals, families, groups, and communities in an effort to enhance social functioning and overall wellbeing. Their training is the most general, although some do focus training on counseling, then develop areas of specializations after graduation.

How are Social Workers Qualified? 

  • Master of Science in Social Work
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • Licensed Masters Level Social Worker

What do Social Workers Do? 

  • Individual Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Family Counseling
  • Classes for educating patients
  • Supervision
  • Home studies

Speech-Language Pathologists

These specialists work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults. Some treatments commonly available from speech-language pathologists include:

  • Speech-language Evaluation
  • Speech Therapy
  • Classes for educating parents and children
  • Supervision

So – What Type of Clinician is Right for Me? 

Every situation is different. If you’ve been encouraged by a medical doctor to seek mental or behavioral healthcare, ask your doctor what type of clinician they recommend for you, and in many cases, they may even be able to point you in the direction of the specific practitioner. If you’re looking for someone to offer general “talk” therapy for yourself, you and your partner, or your family, a counselor, therapist, or social worker is likely your best bet. If you need someone with specialized training in a particular condition or treatment, or if you're looking For behavioral and emotional health assessments, educational assessments, and diagnosis, a psychologist may be a good option. If you or a loved one is struggling with a potentially severe mental illness that will likely require medication, a psychiatrist should be contacted. Still not sure which type of clinician you need? Call the team at 1-888-Therapy. Our knowledgeable professionals will be happy to help you find the right clinician.