Psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors, therapists/practitioners
What’s the difference ?
I’ve been asked numerous times to explain the differences between these professionals and where I stood. People can understandably be confused and unsure about whom to contact for the right help.
I always explain clearly what I do and to the extent of my knowledge what each role does as many professions overlap and there’s an extensive terminology to grasp before even beginning to search for the right professional.
It is very important to identify the professional who has the relevant training and a background to match your demand. One thing we overlook is the person to person relationship, remember that behind the job there’s an individual and it is crucial for the effectiveness of the work to find a person you feel comfortable with, the relationship plays a massive role and is not to be underestimated.
So here is a brief summary of what every profession does, I hope it helps you have a better idea of who can help you best.
A psychiatrist has completed medical school before specialising in psychiatry during which they studied mental disorders, including their diagnosis, treatment and prevention. They are the only ones from this list who can prescribe medication to help with the management of mental conditions. They work mostly with people with more severe conditions and/or those that require medical intervention and will often work as part of a team of various specialists, including psychologists, speech or occupational therapists or complementary therapists as part of a treatment plan.
Within the speciality of psychiatry, there are a number of subspecialties, each requiring further dedicated training.
A psychologist took a degree in psychology during which they studied the way people think, behave and interact, the functioning such of the brain such as learning and remembering as well as more complex mental health conditions. They then have to complete a doctorate to specialise in one field of psychology such as counselling, clinical, organisational or forensic for example.
Not all psychologists can provide mental health care as some are more research-oriented but those do are able to assess, treat and study mental process and behaviours and their approach is evidence-based. Some can also provide psychological evaluation.
A psychotherapist has completed a post-graduate in psychotherapy. A psychotherapist helps clients overcome a wide scope of concerns such as emotional, psychological and relational struggles. These professionals work with theirs patients to deepen their understanding of themselves, of their feelings, reactions or relationships and also work with their past trauma and experiences still affecting their daily life. Psychotherapy is a term that covers all talking therapies and psychotherapists can train in various approaches to help you understand and explore your feelings, some even teach tools that you can use to manage overwhelming emotions more effectively. Psychologists can also be psychotherapists but a psychotherapist isn’t necessarily a psychologist. A psychotherapy usually consist of a weekly session and varies in duration depending on the person needs and demand.
It’s also important to know that there are currently no legal restrictions on the use of this title but the title ‘registered psychotherapist’ is protected by the UKCP which works to ensure high standards of training and the safety of the practice.
A counsellor completed a post-graduate counselling course. They are trained in talking therapies with the aim of helping clients experiencing mental health difficulties. It sounds similar to psychotherapy but they differ in training and abilities when it comes to complex cases so checking a professional's experience, training and qualifications is always recommended. A counsellor will work with you so you find your own solutions, you will work towards overcoming the obstacles that prevent your development and personal growth.
Similar to the title psychotherapist, the title counsellor is not legally protected. So you should check the professional's credentials to ensure they are qualified to practice.
Therapist / practitioner
This title is for people who trained in a specific technique or tool such as hypnotherapy, Emotional Freedom Techniques, Neurolinguistic programming, Though Field Therapy, Eyes Movements Desensitization and Reprocesssing to name a few. The focus is very much on the tool, the training includes theory as well as practice so they understand how and when to use it best as well as its limitations and contra-indication, these approaches are very goal oriented and such therapies fall under the category of “short-term” or “brief” therapies. Therapists/practitioners can work to support the above named specialists as their tools and competence are very complementary and can help the work already implemented. They can also be consulted as stand-alone approaches when the person seeks help progressing on certain aspects of their behaviour, thoughts patterns or wishes to work on specific areas affecting their day to day life without threatening their mental health.
Psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors can undertake these courses and some are approved as continuous professional development by their governing bodies, but not all therapists/practitioners are psychiatrists, psychologists or counsellors.
The titles of therapist & practitioners are unregulated, however a valid diploma is required to get insurance. It is therefore extremely important to check training, certificates, references and continuous professional development when starting to work with a therapist/practitioner. Memberships are also a good way of checking a therapist’s commitment to standards of good practice. For most approaches, International and national bodies have indeed been created to ensure the standards of training and the safety and ethical application of the techniques. Memberships for both training centres and therapists is voluntary but require their member to abide to a code of conduct and ethical standards so when looking for a therapist to work with, check if they do belong to such organisations.
If you are a parent looking for support for your child or teenager, you may also check if they hold a valid DBS and if they have undertaken any Safeguarding Training to confirm they are aware of current practice.
And remember, if you are unsure about whom to contact, you can start by having a chat with your GP who can advise on the best course of action.
As for me, I am a therapist/practitioner, I have trained with the EFT center for EFT, Neurolinguistic programming & Ericksonian hypnosis, I’m currently taking a Hypno-CBT course with the UK college of hypnosis and hypnotherapy.
I’m a member of EFTinternational, the EFT guild, the American board of hypnotherapy and neurolingutisic programming.
You can also check reviews left by previous clients on my Google My Business profile or my listing on Meditsimple where clients also left their feedbacks about the work we did together.
Should you have any questions about where I trained, the format of the courses, the organisations I am a member of or their codes of ethics, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will happily provide any additional information you may need.