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If you feel unwell, you may need therapy, but who should you go to? Here we look at the difference between psychologists and psychotherapists and how they can help.

What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychotherapist?

Sometimes you may need therapy for a variety of problems such as anxiety or depression. It is not always easy to know where to go for help and who to talk to. It can also be unclear what the difference is between a psychologist and a psychotherapist.

Psychologists and psychotherapists are obliged to work with the methods that have been shown to have the best effect in research and to follow the existing recommendations. This is so that the care will be as good as possible for those who seek it. The difference between psychologists and psychotherapists is that they have different basic training. You can read more about this here.

Licensed psychologist

In Australia to become eligible for general registration, you are required to complete a six-year sequence of education and training. This typically includes a four-year Board-approved accredited sequence of study in psychology followed by a further two years of Board approved education and training undertaken while registered as a provisional psychologist.

A psychologist works with assessment, investigation and treatment of mental illness. They work, for example, in medical centres, in psychiatry, as school psychologists, in the prison system and in private practice. Psychologists can also train to become specialists in different areas such as clinical psychology, occupational psychology or neuropsychiatry.

What set our therapist apart was her genuine empathy and personal insight. Not only did she possess a deep understanding of neurodiversity, but she also shared personal experiences that resonated with us, creating an instant connection and fostering a sense of trust!

Benedetta Osarenk


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12 common questions and answers on psychologist vs psychotherapist

What is a psychologist?

A psychologist is a person who works to assess, investigate and treat mental health problems in public and private health care. It is a licensed profession.

What is a psychotherapist?

A psychotherapist is a person involved in the assessment and treatment of mental health problems in the public and private sectors. It is also a licensed profession.

What is a therapist?

A therapist is a person who works as a counsellor but it is not a protected professional title such as a licensed psychologist or psychotherapist. So anyone can call themselves a therapist.

What is the difference between psychologist and psychotherapist?

The difference between these professions is that they have different basic training, with psychologists having completed a six-year vocational training course in psychological treatment and assessment, while psychotherapists can be doctors, social workers or nurses. The psychotherapist program is an advanced training program.

What methods and techniques are used in psychotherapy?

The most common is training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as this is the method most often recommended but there are other methods that are also helpful. In CBT, you work with thoughts, feelings and behaviours to feel better.

What does it mean to be licensed?

Having a license means that you have attended a program such as the psychologist or psychotherapist program and done the required internship before applying for a license from the Board.. It is a quality assurance where you have patient safety and work on an evidence-based basis to ensure that it is as good as possible for the person seeking care.

I am thinking of meeting a coach, what does that mean?

A coach is a person who can work with counselling to create change. This can be helpful, but coaches do not make psychological assessments or have broader knowledge of different conditions. Psychologists are also often taught coaching as part of their initial training.

What is stage 1 training in CBT?

Sometimes you can read that someone has had a stage 1 training in CBT, which means that they have had basic CBT training. You can do this if, for example, you work with people and want to learn more about the method.

Can you get psychotherapy online?

It is possible to receive treatment digitally via video. Research has shown that the outcome of the treatment is equivalent to meeting in person.

What is a CBT therapist?

A CBT therapist is either a licensed psychologist or psychotherapist who is trained in CBT or a therapist who has completed Step 1 in CBT, which is a shorter basic training in CBT.

What does it cost to attend psychotherapy?

At Lavendla, it is the psychologists and therapists who set the price and you can see these on the therapist’s profile page. An individual therapy session with Lavendla therapists usually lasts 45 minutes.

Where can I go if I need help?

At Lavendla, we have experienced psychologists and therapists who can help you feel better. If you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, call emergency services on 000 or Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 (24 hour service).

What is a psychotherapist?

A psychotherapist has completed a psychotherapy course, which is an advanced training course for doctors, social workers and nurses, but psychologists can also take it if they want to develop further in the profession. The psychotherapist program includes supervision and practical training. It then leads to certification as a psychotherapist. A psychotherapist can work in public health care such as a medical centre or psychiatry, but also in private practice. They work mainly in the assessment and treatment of mental health problems.

What does a therapist do?

A therapist can work with conversation therapy, but it is good to know that calling yourself a therapist is not, unlike psychologist and psychotherapist, a protected title, but anyone can call themselves that. Thus, there is not the same quality assurance and patient safety as with a licensed profession.

As a licensed psychologist, you need to work with the methods that have been shown to give the best results in research and if you as a client have been mistreated, you can report this. This is not the case if you go to a therapist. Licensed staff also observe confidentiality and have a duty of confidentiality and record keeping.

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Written by melissa

Melissa is a Certified Kinesiologist who focusses on a client-centred, holistic and integrative approach to health and wellness. She has extensive experience in managing stress, anxiety, fears, phobias and trauma in her clients. Melissa uses visual and auditory feedback to directly access and solve the cause of psychological stressors in the body so that optimal well-being and balance is achieved.