Psychologist vs. Therapist: Differences Between Mental Health Professionals

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on June 5, 2023
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Seeking mental health support can be a daunting task, especially when faced with the decision of choosing between a psychologist and a therapist.

The Online Mental Health Reviews team is well-qualified to write about the differences between therapists and psychologists due to our understanding of licensure, and by having worked with counselors and therapists. We’re dedicated to ensuring readers receive reliable guidance on the most suitable mental health solutions for their needs.

In this article, we will examine the unique qualifications, practice areas, benefits, differences, and drawbacks of each profession, and guide you in selecting the right mental health professional based on your needs.

Qualifications and Practice Areas


A psychologist typically holds a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in psychology and is trained in the study of human behavior, emotions, and cognitive processes. They are licensed to conduct assessments, diagnose, and treat a wide range of mental health issues. Psychologists often specialize in specific areas, such as clinical, counseling, or organizational psychology.


The term “therapist” encompasses various mental health professionals, including licensed clinical social workers (LCSW), marriage and family therapists (MFT), and licensed professional counselors (LPC). These professionals generally hold a master’s degree in their respective fields and are trained in providing therapy and counseling services. Their scope of practice may vary depending on their education, training, and licensure.

Benefits and Drawbacks



  • Comprehensive training in psychological assessment, diagnosis, and research-based treatment methods
  • Specialization in specific areas of psychology, allowing for targeted treatment plans
  • Capability to administer and interpret psychological tests


  • May charge higher fees due to advanced education and specialized training
  • Availability may be limited in some areas, particularly rural or underserved regions



  • Diverse backgrounds and training, offering a variety of therapeutic approaches
  • Typically more affordable than psychologists
  • Wider availability in various settings, such as schools, community organizations, and private practice


  • Limited ability to administer and interpret psychological tests
  • May have a narrower scope of practice, depending on their specific licensure and training
What Is The Difference Between A Psychologist And A Therapist? Which One Do You Need.

Determining Your Needs and Making an Informed Decision

When choosing between a psychologist and a therapist, consider the following factors:

  1. Severity and complexity of your concerns: If you are dealing with complex or severe mental health issues, a psychologist may be better equipped to provide comprehensive assessments, diagnoses, and treatment plans.
  2. Preference for a specific therapeutic approach: Research different types of therapy (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy) and determine which approach best aligns with your needs and preferences. Then, search for a mental health professional who specializes in that approach.
  3. Budget and insurance coverage: Consider your financial situation and insurance coverage when selecting a mental health professional. Therapists may offer more affordable rates than psychologists, but it’s essential to ensure that the professional you choose is within your budget and covered by your insurance plan.

Helpful Tips for Patients

  • Don’t hesitate to inquire about potential mental health professionals’ education, training, licensure, and areas of expertise.
  • Consult with multiple professionals before making a decision, as finding the right fit is crucial for successful therapy.
  • Be open and honest about your concerns, goals, and preferences when discussing your needs with prospective mental health professionals.

Cost of Therapists Vs. Psychologists

The cost of therapy and psychology services can vary greatly depending on the type of professional you choose, according to Healthline.

Therapists typically charge between $65 to $250 per hour, while psychologists may charge up to $500 for an initial consultation and then around $100 to $200 for subsequent sessions.

Many therapists offer sliding scale fees or discounts for those who are unable to pay the full fee. It is important to consider both the cost and the type of professional when deciding which is best for your needs.

How to Use Zocdoc to Find In-Network Therapist And / Or Psychologists Near You

Zocdoc is a valuable online resource for finding a psychologist, doctor, therapist, and more to cater to your specific needs.

Our team at Online Mental Health Reviews has personally tried and tested Zocdoc, making it easier for us to vouch for its effectiveness.

  • The platform offers various benefits such as the ability to search for healthcare providers based on location, specialty, and insurance coverage, making it convenient for users to find the right professional.
  • Additionally, Zocdoc allows users to browse through verified patient reviews and book appointments directly through the website or app, streamlining the process of connecting with a healthcare provider.

While Zocdoc offers an efficient way to find and schedule appointments with mental health professionals, it’s important to consider that there are other alternatives available.

Some individuals may prefer using other online platforms or seeking referrals from friends, family, or primary care physicians. The most suitable approach will depend on individual preferences and requirements.

By exploring various options, individuals can ensure they find the best possible care for their mental health needs while maintaining a balanced perspective on the resources available.

Careers for Mental Health Professionals

• Psychiatrists specialize in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions using both medication and psychotherapy.

• Clinical psychologists assess and treat mental health disorders using psychological techniques.

• Counseling psychologists help people cope with everyday life issues such as stress, family problems, career changes, or relationship issues.

• Mental health nurses provide care for patients with mental illnesses in hospitals or other healthcare settings.

• Social workers assist individuals and families with challenges related to poverty, abuse, addiction, disability, unemployment, homelessness, and other social issues.

• Substance abuse counselors work with people suffering from alcohol or drug addiction to develop strategies to lead healthier lives.

• Art therapists use art therapy to help people express themselves emotionally while working through difficult issues.

• Marriage & Family Therapists specialize in helping couples and families improve communication within relationships through counseling sessions or workshops.

Clinical Psychologists states that Clinical psychologists are mental health professionals who specialize in diagnosing and treating mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.

• They use psychotherapy, CBT, and medication management to assess and treat their patients.

• Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology while therapists typically have a master’s degree.

• Psychologists diagnose mental health conditions and provide evidence-based treatments such as CBT or psychodynamic therapy.

• Therapists may offer counseling services but do not usually diagnose or prescribe medications.

Psychologists’ Specialties

Psychologists specialize in different areas of mental health.

  • Some focus on clinical psychology, which involves diagnosing and treating mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
  • Others specialize in counseling psychology, which involves providing guidance and support to individuals dealing with life changes or difficult situations.
  • Other specialties include educational psychology, forensic psychology, health psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, neuropsychology, and sports psychology.

Counseling Psychologists

• Counseling psychologists are mental health professionals who specialize in aiding individuals with various issues.

• These professionals are equipped with extensive knowledge and utilize techniques such as psychotherapy and CBT to assist individuals.

• They have a doctoral degree in psychology and must be licensed to practice in different fields, including hospitals, clinics, and private practice.

• Counseling psychologists distinguish themselves from therapists by focusing more on the individual’s development over their entire lifespan instead of just treating symptoms.

• Additionally, they provide longer-term care than therapists typically do.

Can a Psychologist Make a Diagnosis?

Psychologists are not medical doctors and therefore cannot make diagnoses. However, they can assess and evaluate mental health conditions and provide psychotherapy to help treat them. Psychiatrists, on the other hand, are medical doctors who can diagnose mental health conditions and prescribe medication.

What Is a Psychotherapist?

• Psychotherapists provide counseling and therapy to individuals, couples, families, or groups to help them address mental health issues.

• They can support people dealing with life transitions or major life changes.

• Psychotherapists come from various backgrounds and qualifications.

• Their methods often involve evidence-based techniques such as CBT, DBT, IPT, or other forms of talk therapies.

Is a Counselor a Therapist?

• Counselors and therapists are not the same, with counselors offering counsel and advice while therapists perform psychotherapy.

• The focus of a counselor is on helping people with everyday issues such as career choices, relationships, or family dynamics, whereas therapists tend to concentrate on mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or trauma.

• Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions through medication or other treatments.

Other Therapy Specialties

There are many other types of therapy specialties beyond therapists and psychologists. These include:

  • Marriage and family therapists
  • Mental health counselors
  • Social workers
  • Psychiatric nurses
  • Substance abuse counselors
  • Art, music, or drama therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Educational psychologists
  • Bilingual therapists

Can Psychologists, Counselors, or Therapists Prescribe Medication?

• Psychologists, counselors, and therapists cannot generally prescribe medications but may refer patients to a psychiatrist.

• Psychologists typically have a Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D degree in psychology and specialize in providing psychotherapy and assessment services, such as OCD services.

• Counselors typically have a master’s degree in counseling and focus on helping with daily life issues such as stress management and relationship problems.

• Therapists usually have a master’s degree in social work or psychology and specialize in providing psychotherapy services such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Which is right for you?

• Choosing between a therapist and a psychologist can be difficult when it comes to mental health care.

• Psychologists typically have a doctoral degree in psychology and can diagnose and treat mental health issues.

• Therapists have usually licensed professionals providing counseling services to individuals, couples, families, or groups.

• Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating mental health issues with medication.

• The best way to determine which type of professional is right for you is by speaking with each one and discussing your needs.

Is there a Difference Between Counseling and Therapy?

• Counseling is usually brief, and focuses on more specific issues, while therapy is longer-term and deals with a broader range of issues.

• Psychologists specialize in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions, while therapists and counselors provide psychotherapy.

• Psychiatrists can prescribe medication for mental health conditions, whereas psychologists cannot.

Difference Between Therapist and Psychologist Conclusion

In conclusion, understanding the differences between psychologists and therapists can help you make an informed decision when seeking mental health care.

By assessing your needs, preferences, and financial situation, you can find the right professional to support your journey toward improved mental health and well-being.

For further reading, please check out: private practice pay, therapist pay per session, approach, online therapy pay, online counselor earnings, Amwell therapist pay, and psychologist versus therapist.

We encourage our readers to leave a comment below with any questions about therapist earnings or career questions!

Also, tell us what mental health software to review next on Online Mental Health Reviews. If you have stories about using a particular product or know of a discount code, please share so everyone may benefit!

If You Are In Crisis

If you’re experiencing a crisis, waiting for an online therapy session might not be the safest option. In case of immediate assistance, dial 911, especially if there’s a risk of harming yourself or others. If you’re contemplating self-harm, reach out to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988 – support is available around the clock.

Additionally, you can contact the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 800-662-HELP (4357). This helpline offers a free, confidential service that assists individuals struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues by providing information and treatment referrals 24/7, throughout the year.

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