Oftentimes the hardest part of therapy is realizing you could benefit from therapy to begin with. Even in 2022, while going to therapy has become more normalized and common (mad props to millennials), there are still some feelings of judgment and shame that can arise in family and social groups. Moving past these obstacles and starting to research mental health professionals in your area or online options is no small feat.
The second hardest part of therapy is figuring out who may be a good fit for your needs. In this article, we want to explain the differences between a psychologist and a therapist to help you on your journey in improving your mental health.
It’s important to note that many people both within and outside of the mental health arenas often use the terms therapist and counselor interchangeably so it makes sense why there is confusion around the differences of mental health professionals.
Therapists work on improving overall mental health due to various diagnoses and different life transitions. They have a master’s degree in either social work or counseling. In addition to having a graduate degree in either social work or counseling, most must get licensed to practice within their own states. To become a licensed social worker or a counselor, individuals must work in the field while there are in school and earn clinical hours before they graduate. provide thousands of hours while they are in school and under the supervision of a board-certified supervisor. They are not able to prescribe medication and often refer their clients to psychiatrists or nurse practitioners. Tier treatment modality is based on prior research, clinical observation, and evidence-based modalities. These include Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), play therapy, solution focus therapy, and many others.
Therapists can have theoretical backgrounds which allow them to help patients work through difficulties in family, schools, or other communities that impact mental health. They often assess and diagnose various mental health disorders and execute a treatment plan. Therapists use talk therapy, behavior modification with children, play, art, music, exercise to help individuals learn to cope with both situational and traumatic stressors and remove barriers for success. Therapists also help a patient challenge their patterns of belief and feel encouraged to see things from a different perspective.
A therapist can:
Complete an assessment and provide a Mood disorder diagnosis (depending on their specialty) .
Develop a treatment plan.
Provide a safe place that allows you to discuss your feelings and address them without imposing any judgment.
Guide you through healthy decision-making.
Increase your self-esteem by helping you recognize your strengths
Help you identify areas of challenge and work through them in healthy and a constructive way.
A psychologist also focuses on treatment and cannot prescribe medication to treat a mental health disorder (a psychiatrist, doctor, or physician’s assistant can do that). They can also provide therapy. However, to become a clinical psychologist, they must receive a doctoral degree. Clinical psychologists’ training is informed by behavioral science research, which explores why someone living with a mental health condition may respond to stress, trauma, and other external factors. Psychologists also can perform different academic testing to determine if someone has a learning disability. They too focus on research as well as behavioral interventions.
Psychologists’ education is similar to therapists’ education but if either wants to pursue a doctorate, they must receive further education and conduct research in their field. They also look to clinical-based treatments as part of their research
A psychologist can also diagnose a mental health condition and provide therapy. They too use different modalities of therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common type of therapy psychologists use that combines talk therapy with exercises that help you become aware of negative thinking patterns and shift them into slightly better-feeling ones.
A psychologist can:
Diagnose a mental health condition by making observations and test for academic performance for ADHD and learning disabilities.
Research mental health conditions to decide on best treatment practices.
Provide different types of therapies that could help you navigate your mental health concerns.
Help you understand and work through emotions and reactions that come up as a result so you can build healthy coping skills and resilience.
Connect you with a psychiatrist if medication is recommended.
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The main difference between a psychologist and a therapist is the amount of education and training they have received; however, this does not mean that one is better than the other. Both psychologists and therapists are beneficial to patients seeking mental health treatment and it’s important to shop around and find which individual fits best with your specific needs.
Regardless of the discipline, both professionals will provide you with the help you need based on your individual preferences. Both are trained to work on strategies to help you excel and challenge your negative thought and behaviors. Contact us today to learn how we can assist with your mental health needs.