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  • Writer's pictureKay Riley-Williams

What is the difference between:

A Psychiatrist, a Psychologist and a Counsellor, and well may you ask.

I will attempt to clarify the confusion surrounding these professions.

Terms like “Psychiatrist” and “Psychologist” are quite often used to describe anyone who provides therapy, but the two services differ in content and scope.


A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor [MD] who can prescribe medication, alongside psychotherapy, however, medical and pharmacological interventions are often their focus. Psychiatrists are physicians who have specific training in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses.

As stated by Dr R Parekh, Director at the APA. “A psychiatrist will have a strong sense of biology and neuro-chemistry”.


A Psychologist holds a doctorate degree, however they are not physicians and they are not permitted to prescribe in most states, but rather provide psychotherapy which may be in the form of cognitive and behavioural interventions.

A “Psychologist”, as a title, can only be used when the individual has completed certain levels of education, state training and licencing requirements, eg: PhD Doctor Psychology or PhD Doctor of Philosophy.

There are some very important differences between psychiatrists and psychologies and one should be aware of the distinction between the two professions. Both are trained to practice psychotherapy, however, their training translates into different approaches to solving your mental health problems.

According to a report by C.V Wright, Phd, “if you are depressed there is a behavioural activation” for example, a psychologist may track sleep patterns, eating patterns and negative thoughts that may be underlying cause.


Counselling is the process of assisting and guiding clients, especially by a trained professional, to resolve personal, social, and psychological difficulties. Eg: Depression, anxiety, grief and loss, divorce, separation, abuse, and drug and alcohol addiction

Counselling incorporates, humanistic, person centred approach focussing entirely on the client, developing a therapeutic relationship. A well trained Counsellor is able to draw the client’s attention to their inner most thoughts, feelings and interpretation of experiences and how these processes may negatively impact them in their daily life.

Counsellors are generally more focussed on specific problems that brought the client to counselling.

Counsellors guide the client to making life changing decisions and adjustments and fostering their own well-being.

A Counsellor will set aside time in order to explore the difficulties the client may be having, we use a humanistic approach in dealing with individuals. Confidentiality and feeling safe is paramount in the counselling experience.

Counselling incorporates a psychotherapeutic process designed to richly empower the client, allowing them to take charge of their lives and look for new ways towards a positive and fulfilling future.

Confidentiality and feeling safe is also paramount in the counselling experience.

Counsellors offer a range of modalities and approaches, to address different problems and presenting issues, these are tailored to suit the clients individual needs.


Both psychotherapy and counselling are terms that are used to describe the same process. They are both talking therapies designed to promote optimal wellbeing for clients.

Psychotherapy is based in the psychodynamic approach to counselling – it encourages the client to look back to their earlier experience and explore how the experience may have had an effect on their current problem.

As a Counsellor we are required to seek on-going clinical supervision, professional development, self-awareness, self-monitoring and self-examination. These are central to being an effective and ethical practitioner.

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