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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychotherapist?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

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    Rob Montgomery

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    I am a Psychotherapist & Counsellor. I believe we are continually involved in the process of Growth and Change which challenges our assumptions of who ... View Profile

    Fundamentally the difference is in the learning or areas of study. A student studying psychology can choose to become a psychotherapist and go on to see clients. A student who sets out to study psychotherapy will be trained specifically to conduct face to face or group therapy very early in their training. Very few graduates of psychology will go on and see clients – the field of psychology is so vast and diverse. The psychologists who do choose to see clients will typically utilise cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as their primary modality. Psychotherapist’s may specialise in a certain modality or use an eclectic modality mix depending upon a client’s needs. Each client comes with distinct issues and needs and may not necessarily respond to the statistically derived principles from conducted scientific research studies.
    I also sense that there is a convergence of; ‘the science of the mind and behaviour’ – (psychology) and the neuroscience studies of the ‘process of human change and self-awareness’ - (psychotherapy). These are exciting times for both skills.
    On a personal note I have observed that a psychologist will consider how to modify behaviour and monitor the progress - whereas a psychotherapist will allow the self exploration to discover why behaviour is present and develop a toolkit of coping skills around this self-awareness.

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    A Jungian Analyst and Art Psychotherapist, Couples Therapist, and Psychoanlytic Psychotherapist, working with adults, couples and children. Supervision for qualified practitioners as well as those ... View Profile

    Well, psychotherapy has to do with helping people overcome stress, emotional and relationship problems or troublesome habits, and it aims to increase an individual's sense of his or her own well-being, and empower them to meet life's challenges. Psychology is basically the study of people, how they think, how they act, react, and interact. It can be defined as the scientific study of human behavior.

    Big differences are in the training. Although both psychologists and psychotherapists have extensive training, the training in psychology reflects a strong emphasis on the validity of measured and reliable evidence of effective interventions. It's an undergraduate degree with a two-year M.A. over it. Psychotherapy training is aimed at promoting an empathic understanding of and then thinking about people's emotional experience in order to help them understand and think about themselves.

    Psychodynamic, or Jungian, and psychoanalytic trainings focus on understanding how the parts of ourselves of which we are not consciously aware affect our daily lives. The really important difference is that while training, psychotherapists are expected, or most commonly required, to undergo their own psychotherapy before and during their training. This may be once weekly, or in the case of Jungian analysis and psychoanalysis, up to five sessions a week for the duration of their training, which may take between four and six years.

    Student psychologists are not expected to undergo their own psychotherapy, although some choose to do so. So psychotherapists are expected to know themselves from the inside and to have had the experience that they're offering to their clients, whereas psychologists are not expected to understand themselves at the same level of depth, and nor to understand the therapeutic process from the inside.

    Let me think, what else can I say. Oh, yes. Psychologists can specialize in various areas, such as clinical and counseling psychology, industrial psychology, forensic psychology, etc. But psychotherapists are specialists. They're usually mature age people that have prior training. They could be teachers, social workers, or even psychologists. Psychotherapists are specialists in helping their clients understand and learn from their own experience, so that ultimately they can live independent, creative lives.

  • Bita Riazati

    Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    I am a bilingual psychologist (Persian /Farsi) registered with AHPRA. I have previously worked as a clinician in schools, private practice, and addiction and mental ... View Profile

    This is a good question and often very confusing for the public. It comes down to the individual practitioner and their areas of training. I am a psychologist and I have an interest in the practice of psychoanalysis. I use this treatment approach in addition to other therapies including CBT, interpersonal psychotherapy and solution focused therapies. As a psychologist I have expertise in the treatment of psychiatric presentations as well as the ability to support individuals with every day life problems. One advantage of seeing a psychologist is the access to Medicare rebates in Australia, which can be accessed by obtaining a Mental Health Care Plan from a GP. 

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