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If you feel unwell and need therapy, 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 help for a variety of problems such as anxiety, depression or phobias. 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. Both are licensed professions; psychologists in the UK must be licensed by the Health & Care Professions Council, while psychotherapists are licensed by one of three associations: the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy, the British Psychoanalytic Council, or the Association of Child Psychotherapists. These guarantee there is a degree of patient safety associated with the therapy.

Psychologists and psychotherapists are also 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 the care will be as effective as possible for those who seek it. The main difference between psychologists and psychotherapists is that they have different training. You can read more about this here.

Licensed psychologist

A psychologist has a five-year vocational degree from a university psychology programme. Psychologists learn evidence-based psychological treatment and neuropsychiatric assessment with cognitive testing during their training. To get their license, evidence of supervised practice, typically around 2 years post-qualification, is required.

A psychologist works with assessment, investigation and treatment of mental illness. They typically work 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 about psychologists vs psychotherapists

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 five-year vocational training course in psychological treatment and assessment, while psychotherapists can be doctors, social workers, or nurses. The psychotherapist programme is an advanced training programme.

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 by the Health & Care Professions Council, but there are other helpful methods. 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 acquired the necessary educational qualifications and completed the required internship before applying for a license from the relevant body. It is a quality assurance for patient safety.

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 see someone with stage 1 training in CBT, meaning they have had basic CBT training.

Can you get psychotherapy online?

Lavendla’s team of professionals provides online treatment via video conference. 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?

Sessions with Lavendla’s psychologists and therapists cost between €30-€100 per session, depending on the practitioner and the length of session.

Where can I go if I need help?

Lavendla’s experienced psychologists and therapists can be booked through their profile pages on our website. However, in an acute mental health emergency, call 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk immediately.

What is a psychotherapist?

A psychotherapist has completed a psychotherapy course, which is an advanced training course for doctors, social workers and nurses. Psychologists might also train in psychotherapy to gain additional professional skills. The psychotherapist training programme typically takes between three and six years, part time. Students also need to do approximately 450 hours of practice, theory and skills, and have therapy and supervision themselves. This leads to certification as a psychotherapist. A psychotherapist can work in public healthcare 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 works with conversation therapy, but it is worth noting that a therapist is not, unlike psychologist and psychotherapist, a protected title. Anyone can call themselves a therapist, so there is not the same quality assurance and patient safety as with a licensed professional.

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 dominic

Dominic is a Cape Town-based copywriter and editor with a background in psychology.