5 mins

Psychologist vs psychotherapist – what’s the difference?

Choosing the right therapist can feel daunting, especially with so many different types of professionals available. It can help to understand the differences between a psychologist vs psychotherapist – as well as other types of mental health experts – so you can find the support that best suits your needs. Let’s demystify these roles together.

Psychologist vs psychotherapist vs psychiatrist – what’s the difference?

In the mental health space, psychologists, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists each bring unique skills and training that are essential for providing effective support. Understanding their distinct roles and approaches can help you make an informed decision about who might be the best fit for your needs:

Psychologists are highly trained experts in human behaviour. They typically hold a doctoral degree (Ph.D.), which involves at least seven years of rigorous academic and practical training, including coursework, research, and supervised clinical experience. They are skilled in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, utilising evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), among others. Their deep understanding of the mind and its processes allows them to address a wide range of issues, from everyday challenges to more complex psychological conditions.

Thanks to their extensive training, psychologists can work in diverse settings, including private practices, hospitals, and schools. This background enables them to tailor their therapeutic approaches to meet each client’s unique needs, helping them to grow and achieve meaningful, lasting changes in their lives.

The term psychotherapist can be confusing as it often serves as an umbrella term for various professionals, such as counsellors and therapists. Generally speaking, psychotherapists come from diverse training backgrounds and do not necessarily hold a Ph.D. They offer a supportive environment where clients can explore their thoughts and feelings, facilitating personal growth through a range of therapeutic approaches. While many psychotherapists specialise in specific therapeutic models, most are skilled in multiple approaches to suit the diverse needs of their clients. Compared to psychologists, psychotherapists typically handle less complex mental health conditions and are generally less likely to work in hospital settings. Instead, they usually practise privately or in community settings.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialise in mental health. Unlike psychologists and psychotherapists, psychiatrists can prescribe medication. They are proficient in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioural disorders, often managing complex mental health conditions that may require both therapy and medication. In a psychiatric consultation, people can be given a diagnosis of their difficulties. In contrast, psychologists focus much more on formulating your difficulties in a very individual way, aiming to understand you as a person rather than necessarily assigning a diagnosis.

Therapist vs counsellor – what’s the difference?

Understanding the roles of therapists and counsellors is important, as these terms are often used interchangeably, yet there are some nuances. Generally speaking:

Counsellors typically help with specific life challenges like losing a loved one, relationship breakdowns, or job-related stress. They focus on helping you develop strategies to cope in the short term, providing a supportive and non-judgemental space. Counselling tends to happen within a briefer therapy model, addressing particular issues and helping you navigate life’s ups and downs more effectively.

In comparison, therapists – which may include psychologists, psychotherapists, and other trained professionals – may work across a broader range of issues. Therapy tends to be longer term, exploring deeper emotional patterns and root causes. It’s about understanding and changing behaviour by delving into past experiences, emotions, and responses.

Both counsellors and therapists aim to enhance your quality of life by facilitating personal growth and helping you better understand and manage your thoughts and feelings. Choosing between them often depends on the depth and duration of the issues you’re looking to explore.

Choosing the right support

Understanding the unique strengths and focus areas of psychologists, psychotherapists, and counsellors can help you make an informed decision when it comes to your mental wellbeing. 

First and foremost, effective therapy relies on a strong connection with your therapist, so it’s important to feel comfortable and like your therapist “gets” you, whether you’re seeing a psychologist, psychotherapist, or counsellor. Knowing the different qualifications, approaches, and specialties your therapist has can help you navigate your mental health journey with confidence.

At our London clinic, we have psychologists who typically hold doctoral degrees and have undergone rigorous years of advanced study in psychology. This background prepares them for deep therapeutic work and means they are able to diagnose and treat complex mental health issues as well as more common challenges. Our clinical and counselling psychologists use a wide range of scientifically-backed techniques tailored to each individual’s needs, effectively addressing any underlying patterns that might be holding you back.

Choosing our psychologists means opting for a level of expertise that goes beyond typical therapy practices. They offer a broader and more nuanced understanding of the mind, ensuring a sophisticated approach to mental wellness designed to deliver lasting change.

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength – and finding the right support is the first step. If you’re interested in starting therapy or you’d like to learn more, speak to one of our team today.

Dr Elena Touroni

Dr Elena Touroni

24 June 2024

"Dr. Elena Touroni is a skilled and experienced Consultant Psychologist with a track record of delivering high-quality services for individuals with all common emotional difficulties and those with a diagnosis of personality disorder. She is experienced in service design and delivery, the management of multi-disciplinary teams, organisational consultancy, and development and delivery of both national and bespoke training to providers in the statutory and non-statutory sector."

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Athena Lazaridou

Athena is a Pilates instructor with 8 years’ experience in the field. After completing a Power Pilates Mat Certification in Athens, she went on to complete the Full Comprehensive Classical Pilates Certification with Equinox in Kensington.  She has been teaching Pilates at Equinox for the past 6 years in addition to her own private clients who she trains both face to face and virtually.

Athena has a passion for helping people get stronger and fitter as well as helping those recovering from injury regain their strength and mobility.  Over the years, she has worked with athletes to incorporate Pilates into their training and improve performance. Athena has also worked with prenatal and postnatal women who may be experiencing depression or other mental health difficulties and used Pilates to facilitate a positive impact on their mental health.

Athena is very passionate about improving physical and mental well-being and has recently incorporated Sound Healing into her work, as she believes it to be one of the best ways of ‘letting go’ and releasing stale energy whilst increasing greater self-awareness.