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What are the differences between a psychologist and a therapist?

There are many disciplines concerned with addressing mental health. Psychology is a field that has many different approaches, and some differ greatly from each other. All mental health professionals, whether therapists or psychologists, have similarities, but also important differences in the way they work.

All psychological currents have different strengths and areas of work. Knowing how each specialist approaches therapeutic treatment can help you choose the right professional for yourself.

Both therapists and psychologists help their patients overcome their problems and achieve their goals, but they do so using different methods. In this article, we will discuss the differences between these two professionals, psychologists and therapists, so that we know what to expect from each of them.

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What are the differences between a psychologist and a therapist?

People often use the words psychologist and therapist in the same way, but since these titles are used interchangeably, you may not know how they are different. Both therapists and psychologists have some training and education to treat a variety of mental health issues and can deliver effective results to the people they help. Now let's see what each of the two types of professions consists of.

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Without going into details, a psychologist is a professional who has studied psychology and has specialized in one of its branches.

A psychologist specializing in the field of applied psychology is trained to assess and diagnose mental states of a person in different settings: at work, in relationships, with his family or in the school etc They may treat people individually or use group therapy. Their job is to help improve people's well-being and mental functioning.

Psychologists can work in different areas and from different approaches. They do not always work with people who have serious mental illness or emotional difficulties. Graduates in psychology can work in many fields, such as: labor, legal, educational, among others. Therefore, a psychologist does not always carry out treatment or therapy. As we can see, it is not easy to define a psychologist, since there are different specializations and the work differs in one or the other, it differs a lot from each other.

One branch of psychology is clinical psychology. The work of the clinical psychologist is normally associated with that of the therapist, and many people consider them that way. But in addition to offering therapy, a clinical psychologist has theoretical and technical tools to diagnose, evaluate and treat mental disorders, both specific and common.

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If we focus, a therapist is his definition: "it is that person with special abilities obtained through of training and experience, in one or more areas of health care and, in its work, offers support for". So dentists, physical therapists, and other professionals can call themselves therapists, even if they don't work in the field of mental health. Although the term therapist is used very generically, in this case we focus on therapists in the field of mental health and emotional well-being.

A therapist is a person who must have completed graduate school or received some training at a private institution. Your education includes the knowledge and skills needed to address some mental health issues. Psychotherapists use methods and techniques to help their clients improve their quality of life and their relationships with others. There are many licensed psychiatrists and psychologists who call themselves psychotherapists., to clarify that her work is focused on individualized therapy.

Normally, a therapist belongs to a particular school of thought. Some of the most popular therapeutic approaches are NLP, systemic family therapy, humanistic therapy, and Gestalt therapy. A therapist does not necessarily have to study psychology; her focus could be on one of the study streams.

In recent years, some people who do self-improvement training (coaching) have appeared. While their techniques may be good and effective, most of these people have no training in mental health or emotional well-being and should not address these types of issues.

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What problems does each deal with?

Any therapist or psychologist is a good start to treat different vital situations that affect our well-being emotional, for example, you can go to any of these professionals if you need help to overcome a divorce or face a duel.

Both mental health psychologists and therapists can help address mental health issuessuch as anxiety and depression. Although if the problem causes severe symptoms that interfere with maintaining daily life or work, consideration should be given to possibility of preferably opting for a clinical psychologist, since he or she is trained to deal with this type of condition serious.

Differences between psychology and psychotherapy

To help better differentiate the scope of action of the psychologist and the therapist, we are going to a brief summary of the main ways in which both specialists can help.

Psychologists can help with mental health problems in different ways:

  • Diagnosis: A mental health condition can be diagnosed through observation and survey by a clinical psychologist.
  • Treatment: the psychologist will observe her condition and suggest therapeutic treatment options,
  • Therapy: Therapies can help treat the mental health condition or problem. In addition, to help better understand emotions and feelings, so that good decisions can be made based on them.
  • Referral: In the event you need medication, a psychologist can refer you to a psychiatrist.

A therapist may focus on:

  • Offer a global vision: Understand mental health problems and give an overview of them.
  • Managing feelings: helping to talk about feelings and teaching how to deal with them in a positive way.
  • Decision making: help make healthy decisions with good processes and criteria.
  • Talk therapy: Talk therapy techniques help people who are dealing with difficult emotions.

In some countries, therapists have the authority to make certain mental health diagnoses. Or they can refer the patient to another professional if it is necessary to do so.

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Why is it important to differentiate them?

To carry out a good therapeutic process, it is essential to know what you want to achieve or change. Once the objective is known, the execution of this can be planned. And decide what type of therapy, with what type of professional or with what psychological current you want to work.

There are many professionals in the mental health field who can help clients in many different ways. The terms psychologist, therapist indicate the type and level of training of the professional. As we have seen, not all people who work with the psyche are psychologists, in fact, many historical figures have worked with psychotherapeutic approaches without having any type of certification.

This makes the field a little difficult when deciding on one professional or another, in fact there are well-prepared psychologists who do not achieve good results, and there are very effective therapists who do not have a degree. psychology.

When choosing a therapist or psychologist to work with, do not hesitate to ask about their education and training. You can also inquire about the approaches he uses and the topics he specializes in.

The importance of scientific support

Although science and academic studies cannot guarantee that a psychologist, or any professional, is doing their job well, they can guarantee a certain standard of quality. The verification and certification of knowledge help to establish control over the effectiveness of professional practice, as well as to ensure that professionals are working with similar visions and basic principles. These principles are developed through comparative cases, empirical evidence, and analysis.

According to the ethical criteria of the profession, psychologists are obliged to continue their training and supervise their work at all times. A good ethical practice for a psychologist would be to refer a client to a professional if he or she has a pathology or does not have the tools or experience to handle the case.


Choosing between a psychologist or a therapist depends on the general needs of each patient. Either of the two specialists is trained to work with mental health and help the person establish and meet the objectives of the therapeutic process.

Regardless of the type of professional you choose, it is important to ensure that you feel comfortable, heard and understood, this is essential to build a solid foundation and determines the effectiveness of the therapy to long term.

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