Therapist vs Psychologist: What’s the Difference?

Jun 2023 Therapist vs Psychologist: What’s the Difference?

Realizing that you need professional help for addiction or a mental health concern can be a significant step toward a healthier future. But how can you decide which type of professional is right for you? In today’s post, we look at the similarities and differences between therapists vs. psychologists.

What is the Difference Between a Therapist vs. a Psychologist?

To compare therapists vs. psychologists, let’s begin by discussing a few key differences between these two professions:

Education: Psychologists have doctoral degrees, typically either a PhD or PsyD. Earning a PhD usually involves researching and writing a dissertation, while a PsyD is typically focused on clinical work. The educational requirements for someone to become a therapist are much broader, and can vary from state to state. In most cases, therapists will have at least a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or another similar field of study.

Training: Training requirements can vary among states, but a person must typically complete a few years of supervised professional experience after earning their degree, and also pass a licensing exam in order to work as a psychologist. The training and supervised experience requirements for therapists can depend not only on the state in which they intend to practice, but also their area of specialization. This includes, marriage and family therapy, behavioral therapy, or occupational therapy. In addition, what type of degree they have earned.

Services: Psychologists can conduct assessments, provide mental health diagnoses, and offer treatment. They are also more likely to work with people who have been experiencing acute symptoms. Or, who otherwise have more intensive mental health needs. Therapists do not diagnose disorders. Additionally, they are more likely to treat people whose needs, at least initially, appear to be less severe. Therapists may also work with people who do not have a diagnosed mental health disorder. This allows them to help those with issues such as anger management, stress management, and conflict resolution.

Difference between therapist vs psychologist

What are the Similarities of a Psychologist vs. a Therapist?

As noted in the previous section, there are some distinct differences between a therapist vs. a psychologist. There are also many reasons why, among the general public, there can be confusion between these two professions.

The following are examples of similarities between therapists vs. psychologists:

  • Psychologists and therapists are both trained and experienced professionals.
  • Therapists and psychologists are both subject to state-level requirements for licensure and certification.
  • Psychologists and therapists can both help people whose lives have been disrupted by a variety of mental and behavioral health concerns. This includes substance use disorders (which is the clinical term for addictions to alcohol and other drugs). 
  • The patient demographic for both therapists and psychologists can also include individuals with dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis means that they have both a mental health condition and a co-occurring substance use disorder.
  • Psychologists and therapists may care for patients on their own or as part of a multidisciplinary treatment team.
  • Therapists and psychologists may specialize in a variety of modalities,. These include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and psychodynamic therapy.
  • Psychologists and therapists may both conduct various types of therapy, including individual, group and family sessions.
  • Therapists and psychologists may both work in several settings. This includes hospitals, mental health treatment centers, addiction rehab facilities, and private practice.
  • In most cases, neither psychologists nor therapists may prescribe medications. In the mental health field, psychiatrists (who have medical degrees, either an MD or a DO) are the professionals who are typically authorized to prescribe medication. However, please note that in a few states, some psychologists with advanced training may be given the right to prescribe a few types of medications.
  • Therapists and psychologists may both refer patients or clients to other healthcare providers or treatment centers to receive specialized services or higher levels of care.

How to Choose Between Going to a Therapist or a Psychologist

Psychologists and therapists can both provide quality care to address a wide range of mental and behavioral health concerns. So, if you or someone that you care about needs professional help, how can you decide between a psychologist vs. a therapist? 

Here are a few questions that can help you make the best decision for yourself or your loved one:

  • Do you need to complete an assessment and receive an official diagnosis? 
  • Are you seeking a professional who has a strong background in clinical research?
  • Have you been working with a counselor or therapist and believe that you would be better served by a different approach?

If you answered yes to any of the three questions above, you may want to consult with a psychologist.

  • Do you need professional advice to help you resolve conflicts within your marriage or address personal concerns (such as low self-esteem or lack of confidence) that have been preventing you from living a more satisfying life?
  • Would you like to continue meeting with a professional for an extended period of time to help you maintain your emotional well-being and deal with challenges as they arise?
  • Are you looking for continued support after completing an inpatient or residential program for addiction or a mental health disorder?

If you answered yes to any of the three questions listed above, a therapist may be the right person for you.

Contact Our Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment Center in California

Phoenix Rising Recovery is a trusted source of comprehensive, personalized care for adults who have been struggling with addictions and certain co-occurring mental health disorders

Programming at our center in southern California includes detoxification, residential treatment, and several outpatient options. At all levels of care, patients receive customized services from a team of skilled and compassionate professionals in safe and highly supportive environment.

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call us today.