Psychotherapist vs. Psychologist: What’s the Real Difference?

doctor welcoming patient for mental health

Psychotherapists and psychologists are both mental health professionals who have passed all qualifying examinations and training to receive their titles. However, if you are looking for help, which professional should you reach out to?

What is a Psychotherapist?

A psychotherapist is an individual who has received the necessary training to meet the qualifications of the said title. To become a psychotherapist, an individual must have:

  • An undergraduate degree in Psychology or other health-related areas
  • A master’s degree in Psychotherapy
  • Completed the required field hours in practice
  • Passed the licensing examination for Psychotherapists

After passing the licensing exam, psychotherapists can now use their title in their profession. One does not need to get a PhD in order to practice psychotherapy, although it can benefit one’s career growth.

What is a Psychologist?

There are many levels to the Psychology profession. All psychologists in Australia need to have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. There are three undergraduate degrees available:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology
  • Bachelor of Social Science in Psychology

After completing the undergraduate course, the student may either take up a six-year Master’s degree in Psychology, specialising in one of the following:

  • counselling psychology
  • forensic psychology
  • organisational psychology 
  • sport and exercise psychology
  • educational and developmental psychology
  • health psychology
  • community psychology
  • clinical neuropsychology 
  • clinical psychology

Or, the student may choose to undergo a supervised internship under the practice of a licensed Psychologist. After the 2-year internship program, the student must take the National Psychology Exam (NPE). Those who have taken a Master’s degree do not need to take the NPE.

After either completing a Master’s degree or passing the NPE, the student must register with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) in order to use their title and practice as a professional psychologist. If a so-called psychologist is not a member of the PsyBA, they are considered unqualified and may face legal repercussions for fraudulent practice.

How Are They Similar?

Both psychotherapists and psychologists perform talk therapy and help with the management of mental health disorders. Individuals who have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and other similar mental health problems need to consult either a psychotherapist or a psychologist to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

How Are They Different?

A psychologist can be a psychotherapist if the individual has completed the necessary training to achieve psychotherapy certification, apart from already completing the qualifications to become a psychologist.

On the other hand, psychotherapists do not necessarily need to be psychologists. They can have degrees in psychology or other related health sciences, but after their undergraduate degree, they may choose to proceed directly with psychotherapy training and certification.

Who Should You Consult?

When choosing a mental health provider, you should first verify their qualifications. Make sure they have finished the necessary educational degrees and training that they hold in their titles. A qualified psychologist should be a member of the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council, the governing body of psychology practice in Australia.

If you prefer to see a psychotherapist, you should look for professionals who are members of the PACFA or Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia. This organisation upholds the standard of psychotherapy education and practice in the entire country.

However, psychologists are not medical doctors. Clinical psychologists usually have a PhD or doctorate degree in Philosophy, not medicine. Therefore, they cannot prescribe medications for mental illnesses. To get a prescription, patients need to see a psychiatrist who holds a doctorate degree in Medicine (MD). Some psychiatrists are also practising psychotherapists, granted that they have the necessary qualifications.

Find the Best Mental Health Professional in Brunswick

If you are having problems with your mental health and wellness, you may visit Lotus Medical Centre in Brunswick. Our team of mental health professionals are always ready to assist you. We will develop the best treatment plan for your specific condition and help you achieve healing through proper care and guidance.