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What Are the Key Differences between a Psychologist and a Psychotherapist?

The main difference between a Psychotherapist and Psychologist is the level of education, but in some instances, this may not be the case.


For example, a licensed psychologist may be found in a role of therapist or counselor depending on the title deemed by the organization that they were for or are in collaboration with. Regardless, both professions must complete their respective degrees. For instance, a Psychotherapist may complete a masters in psychiatric therapy, family therapy, or the lake and a psychologist may complete a PhD in psychology. Both have to complete clinical hours in training in which they must submit to a board for approval to take their exams. After, they can practice professionally once their licenses are obtained. Psychotherapists are required to complete a master’s degree in psychology or similar area study like family and marriage counseling. In addition, they must obtain 3000 clinical hours, licensing exam, and achieve their license. ​ Therapists had the ability to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. They can also put together treatment plants, set up their own practices, or work in conjunction with hospitals and inpatient wards. Psychotherapists practice under traditional roles within one or more of the broad categories of psychotherapy ​​incorporating talk therapy with an offering of tips, tricks, and tools to help patients handle symptoms that they are experiencing in their everyday life. Most of the time psychotherapy focuses on a relationship and experiences as well as how they are formed to create and affect the life of the patient on an individual level. Some Psychotherapists, like Marriage and Family therapists, focus on couples, families, or groups like those you find in professional settings and focus on improving those functions. Psychologists unlike marriage counselors, social workers, or therapists have not only a four-year undergraduate degree, but a four-year doctorate program. They are designated with the title of doctor. However, similar to other healthcare professions, Psychologists must still obtain 3,000 hours outside of their formal education and obtain licensing through their exam. In addition, Psychologist can obtain hours through either clinical or research practices or some other combination of the two. These hours designate the difference between a PHD and a PSYD – which is a clinical option of a doctorate program. This doesn’t mean that someone with a PhD could not have done a clinical emphasis and gained clinical hours. ​ Due to the fact that Psychologists can originate from the realm of research many handle testing assessments, and evaluations that other medical health professionals normally wouldn’t. This doesn’t mean that Psychotherapists cannot provide the screenings as well, it just means additional formal training is required. ​


In most cases, to the patient or client there may not be a perceived difference between Psychologist and Psychotherapist. The only differentiation between any mental or behavioral health professional lies in specialities and the particular area of practice.


As a client trying to find a perfect fit it's important to understand how your potential provider has been trained in the area of study that they are focused in, what mental health afflictions that they are most familiar with and which demographics they have the most experience treating. Even their history of continuing education units and practicing environments (i.e. group, inpatient wards, or client to therapist) may provide insight into the most optimal fit.


It is also important to note that Psychiatrists, unlike Psychotherapists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals focus on medicinal treatments as medical doctors. Many psychiatrists do not partake in clinical work, but monitor the effects of prescription-based treatments through shortened sessions strictly based on the medical model.


This greatly differentiates psychiatrists from all other fields as medical doctors, Psychiatrist are also required to complete a two-year residency atop all other requirements. In some cases, they partner with Psychotherapists and psychologists to provide clinic work for their patients.


While mental health professionals are cast and plentiful, the division is important to provide the best help to the growing population. Based on need in availability both Psychotherapist or psychologist, and many other mental health workers can provide you with the correct and needed attention. Sometimes, an outside perspective may be all you need to improve. Other times, you may need to see someone on an ongoing basis.


Understanding your needs sooner rather than later can save you from mental pain and anguish. Be sure to consult your Milwaukee psychologist (GOCaC) as soon as symptoms arise. It is a good rule of thumb to stay connected with a Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist, and General Practitioner for optimal physical and mental health. ​



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