Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor or Psychiatrist; Who Should I See for What

Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor or Psychiatrist; Who Should I See for What?

On 14 November 2023

One of the most common questions people ask us is what is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist or a counsellor? There are many different professionals in the field of mental health and as well as the ones already listed there are mental health practitioners and well-being coaches! It can all get very confusing, so why not read our guide which aims to demystify things a little and give some guidance on whom you or your child might be best advised to see for what.

Psychologists Professionally trained psychologists registered with the HCPC use psychological theory and research to treat and intervene with psychological difficulties. They might be clinical psychologists/counselling psychologists, or educational psychologists (who focus upon school, learning and/or issues in education). Registered with the HCPC as practitioner psychologists, they may also contribute to research, theory or policies that guide human wellbeing and behaviour. Psychology is a scientific discipline and so there is an emphasis upon employing “evidence based” practice which means drawing on research that shows what works and for whom (see Psychologists also evaluate their work to make sure it is helpful, and do this by using psychometric tools, which are often questionnaires which allow them to measure signs and symptoms of psychological problems like anxiety, depression or PTSD/trauma. They are often employed in NHS mental health settings and can work with complex issues. As well as therapy, psychologists also assess problems and make recommendations to influence outcomes for an individual; neuropsychologists conduct  psychological tests to assess, for example a person’s intellectual functioning after an injury or they might assess to understand a child’s cognitive needs to help them function in a school setting better. Psychologists also assess issues like ADHD and autism.

Counsellors Counsellors offer guidance and sometimes advice on issues such as bereavement, job related stress or marital breakdown or relationship issues. Counsellors might work in specific fields like fertility, genetic counselling or drug and alcohol support or in schools. They can support you by providing a safe confidential space to guide you to find solutions to your difficulties. Many have additional training in therapies such as CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) which can help with anxiety and depression. There are lots of different types or counselling and qualification bodies; however to work in a setting like the NHS, a counsellor would usually need to be accredited by the BACP or similar organisation (see our previous blog to learn more). Some counsellors have additional psychotherapy training to work with specific groups, using specific therapies like play therapy, EMDR or psychoanalytic therapy.

Psychiatrists Psychiatrists are medical professionals who have completed a medical degree and done additional training in mental health. They are registered with the GMC and Royal college of Psychiatry. Psychiatrists often work with complex mental health presentations like psychosis or bipolar disorder. They use medical classification systems to understand mental health. They are able to treat mental health difficulties using medication and so might prescribe medication for conditions like depression, ADHD or to help with sleep and sometimes challenging behaviour. Some psychiatrists have done additional training in therapy but often they generally refer on to a psychologist or counsellor for this. We hope you have enjoyed this user guide to mental health professionals and if you have any questions about who is right for you feel free to get in contact with us .

Cura Psychology

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