What is the difference between a therapist and a psychologist?

A psychologist has a degree in psychology (the study of the mind). Psychologists may or may not be therapists. Those who do therapy are known as Clinical Psychologists. Other psychologists are engaged in research and a variety of other pursuits.

A therapist has special training in ways of helping clients identify and deal with behavioral and emotional issues. Therapists may be psychologists, Social Workers, or have other training. Most psychiatrists, who are also medical doctors, practice therapy.

The essential characteristics are training and hours in the field. Before licensing (or certification, in some cases), all therapists are required to have thousands of “contact hours,” where they work with clients under the supervision of a licensed therapist. In addition to contact hours, a certain number of hours of formal training are required (often received as part of their college work), and they must also pass a comprehensive licensing examination.

Addiction therapists (often called “Addiction Professionals”, or “CAPs”) have additional specialized training and experience in dealing with issues surrounding alcoholism and addiction to other drugs.  They may or may not be recovering themselves.  However, in my personal opinion, it “takes one to know one.”

I do not recommend dealing with unlicensed “therapists,” regardless of who they are or what experience they claim. This especially applies to some clergy, who may be allowed to practice, by law, without having the requisite training to do a competent job.  Always ask to see a state-issued license that specifically pertains to addiction, such as Certified Addiction Professional,  or refers to something like Licensed Mental Health Counselor or Licensed Clinical Social Worker, or a counselor affiliated with a licensed treatment facility.

1 thought on “What is the difference between a therapist and a psychologist?

  1. altonwoods

    “This especially applies to clergy, who may be allowed to practice, by law, without having the requisite training to do a competent job”.

    Certainly we’re all entitled to our opinions as to what constitutes a “competent job”where therapy is concerned. Anyone can make generalized statements about groups of people while unfairly disregarding the number of exceptions involved. I could point out what I feel are the various failings of the secular medical approach to helping people and while they might be true of some practitioners, hopefully they wouldn’t be the industry standard. It truly is a glass house that all of us who endeavor to make a difference in other peoples’ lives inhabit and I feel that it’s unproductive to in effect “build our house on the bones of others”. I also am compelled to wonder if infact statements like these are perhaps reflective of insecurities in ones own approaches.

    My apologies for any ruffled feathers. I intended it to read “some clergy,” and the correction has been made.

    With regard to insecurities, I would point out that I was not the one who got defensive, and that calling something “therapy” does not make it so.


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