This is one of the most common questions in our field, and rightly so, with so many titles it gets really confusing. To complicate matters, there is always some overlap between the various professionals. So who are these people and what do they all do?
Similarities first– Counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists (and some others too) have trained and work in areas related to mental health and wellbeing. All practicing professionals offer sessions where they aim to help and support people. All practitioners need to abide by ethical codes of conduct to ensure the safety of the people they work with.
Now comes the more complicated process of trying to untangle the differences between the titles and professionals, while reading bear in mind there is always at least some overlap!
Psychiatry is the easiest to distinguish among the group. Psychiatry is a speciality of medicine like surgery or paediatrics. All psychiatrists have graduated from medical school, before choosing specialised psychiatric training. They further choose to work with adults or children and adolescents.
Because of their medical background, psychiatrists’ training, focus, and mode of treatment are often the most different from other practitioners. The main focus of their work is assessment, and diagnosis, then offering recommendations for treatment, prescribing and monitoring psychotropic medication (if applicable). The overlap comes as most practising psychiatrists offer some psychotherapeutic support throughout this process.
A psychologist has a doctorate degree in psychology (PHD or PsycD), in addition to their training to do psychotherapy work they often have extra specialised training. For example, clinical psychologists are trained to administer psychometric assessments. These are assessments that aid with diagnosis and treatment. Other psychologists have an interest or increased experience in research.
It gets even more confusing when we get to counsellors and psychotherapists, both offer talking therapy in sessions that are held at regular intervals. One important point to note is that all psychotherapists are counsellors but not all counsellors are psychotherapists.
Counsellors have a shorter and more focused training. Often counsellors will have one particular area of focus, for example couples counsellors, and substance misuse counsellors.
Psychotherapists have taken a longer specialist training in psychotherapy, choosing a way of work or approach during that process. Most psychotherapists offer short or long-term psychotherapy for individuals, families, and/or couples. Psychotherapists can work with a wide range of issues: questions about life, confusion, anxiety, depression, or psychiatric disorders. Psychotherapists do not prescribe medication, so if medication is required they will refer and work in collaboration with psychiatrists.
At the International Clinic, London we have many psychotherapists with various approaches.