The Difference Between a Counselor and a Psychologist?

A career in mental health is one of the most popular options in modern times. People are much more open and accepting of mental health issues. Society is working on reducing the stigma surrounding such problems. Studying mental health allows us to help people who might be fighting silent battles each day. However, mental health has many subcategories, and there are many jobs to opt for. When picking a mental health career, you need to have detailed information regarding all the different fields to choose the best for you. Two of the most popular – and commonly confused – areas are that of a counselor and a psychologist. These two may seem pretty similar, but they are quite different. If you’re interested in learning more about these two intriguing fields, keep reading below.



One of the defining features differentiating counselors and psychologists are the different specializations for both. Counselors and psychologists work with diverse populations, defined by their area of specialization. Counselors commonly practice with more specific mood-related issues than clinical psychologists who focus more on challenging cases such as diagnosed mental illnesses.
People often seek counselors concerning assertiveness training, leaders ship skills, and generally bettering oneself in all aspects of life. If you are looking to stand up for yourself and take control of your life, you are more likely to pay a trip to a counselor than a psychologist. A psychologist is more likely to adopt a clinical role to diagnose and treat clients long-term.

Educational Requirements

When moving into psychology, choosing between becoming a counselor and a clinical psychologist is often challenging for new psych students.
counseling specialties are such that they would most likely need a master’s degree or practice anywhere in the United States. The academic coursework is also not as in-depth as that of a psychologist. Therefore one can make the argument that the course is more comfortable to handle as well.
However, psychologists, especially clinical psychologists, have to complete the Psych D course to graduate as a psychologist. They would consider pursuing a Psych D after graduating with a bachelor’s in psychology and looking to enter the market as clinical practitioners. However, it depends on where you are practicing in the US. Some places prefer a master’s in clinical while others require a Psych D certification.


As discussed earlier, counselors and psychologists work with vastly different populations. This difference is what leads to the difference in treatment protocols. Counselors do just what their name tells you – they counsel clients. Counselors weren’t able to handle severe emotional or behavioral disturbances. Instead, they can help guide people with moderate challenges to function better. Some counselors also cannot provide clients with a diagnosis or administer any specific treatments. Counselors act as confidants who can help their clients using therapeutic interventions, but only if the problems aren’t severe.

Psychologists, on the other hand, are equipped to treat people with severe behavioral or emotional disturbances. They can provide clients with a diagnosis and can give disorder-specific treatments. If counselors encounter clients with severe issues, the law requires them to refer the clients to psychologists. Furthermore, some psychologists with speculations can also prescribe medicines, while counselors can’t.

Scope of Practice

in general, both career aspects are ones which society direly needs. However, when it comes to demand, a counselors role in therapy is somewhat limited compared to that of a psychologist. A counselor is most likely going to be limited to counseling their clients for most of their career. Unless they branch out, chances are they will remain in the same kind of practice for the rest of their lives.
Psychologists are generally more ‘in demand’ than counselors. They have a diverse range of expertise that society could use just about anywhere. For example, the police use forensic psychologists in criminal profiling regularly. The forensic psychologist educational requirements fall more in line with that of a general psychologist than a counselor.


As psychology is still somewhat of a developing discipline, members of the psychological community are encouraged to conduct as much research as possible. Research is vital for psychologists as certain aspects of their career growth count on having led prior research. Not only does the research benefit the community as a whole, but the therapists, in general, distinguish themselves from the rest after having conducted thorough research into critical issues.
On the other hand, counselors do not have any such obligation to conduct researches during their careers. They are more focused on practicing their discipline. The requirement of academic research may only be during their initial educational years. Though some counselors choose to research on their own, it is not an obligation in any way.


Working as a counselor or psychologist allows you to work closely with the most vulnerable in society. You can improve their lives and teach them coping strategies they’ll use the rest of their lives. Counselors and psychologists both work with incredibly diverse populations, and you can learn a lot from both these professions. If empathy and analytical skills are your strong suit, you can thrive in both these careers.

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