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Difference Between Counselling and Psychology

Counsellor vs psychologist? If you're interesting in studying psychology or counselling, or just want see a therapist, please read this important information first.

Counselling or therapy session between man and woman

Counsellors and psychologists both offer one-to-one therapy. A key difference is that psychology training allows you to diagnose and treat mental health disorders. In counselling, the focus is on talk therapy to help people solve life problems.

Counselling courses provide practical training to effectively listen and respond to clients. The curriculum cultivates empathy and positive regard, also known as the micro skills of the profession. Students acquire listening skills that are essential to becoming a counsellor.

Studying psychology, on the other hand, covers a broader range of assessment and diagnosis theory, while also teaching counselling skills. There is more emphasis on learning advanced therapeutic methods, as psychologists often tackle serious mental health problems.

Table Of Contents

What Is Counselling?

Counselling is a process where a trained professional guides a client towards improved mental well-being through discussion or talking therapy. While counselling is often short-term, the counsellor will try to understand the client's concerns and behaviours that may cause daily problems.

Counsellors listen to their clients and guide them towards practical solutions for immediate issues like grief, communication, conflict resolution, or decision-making. They may also help clients improve interpersonal relationships, clarify values, or manage emotions.

In Australia, the title of "counsellor" is not protected, so their qualifications vary. However, eligible practitioners may register with organisations such as the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) or the Australian Register of Counsellors & Psychotherapists (ARCAP).

What Is Psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and human behaviour. The main role of a psychologist is to assess and provide therapy to individual patients, but they also have active roles in industries such as science, business, and education.

Psychologists help patients in clinical settings deal with conditions such as bipolar disorder, panic disorders, and PTSD. They may also assist a healthy person to enhance their performance. They use psychometric testing and other methods to identify the root causes of problems and develop treatment plans accordingly.

Psychotherapy in one-to-one sessions is an essential tool for clinical or counselling psychologists. It is used for the long-term treatment of mental illness, and other emotional and psychological issues. For instance, a psychologist may use cognitive-behavioral therapy to aid a patient's recovery. The aim is to help clients gain greater self-awareness and control over their emotions and behaviours.

Counsellor vs Psychologist

Drawing of a human side-on with a head full of question marks

Which Career Should I Choose?

Therapist holding a pen an clipboard consulting with a client

If you're here to explore the choice between psychology or counselling as a career choice, we have a quiz to help you decide.

Quiz: Should I become a counsellor or psychologist?

Answer 'Yes' or 'No' to each of these two sets of ten questions to determine if a career as a counsellor or psychologist is suitable for you. Make sure to count the number of 'Yes' responses for each set.

While the quizzes may not be entirely scientific, they can provide an indication of your potential suitability for each career.

You need to score 8-10 on a quiz to indicate you may have the qualities and skills required for a career in that field. If you score lower on the counsellor test, you may want to consider a career as a psychologist, and vice versa.

Commonalities and key differences

Your scores for each profession may be similar because the jobs share much in common. Counsellors and psychologists work with clients in a person-centered approach to enhance their well-being. Both professions require a significant education in mental health, and offer the satisfaction of positively impacting people's lives. Experienced professionals in both fields typically enjoy stable, rewarding careers.

However, there are also differences. While many counsellors hold master's degrees, becoming a psychologist generally requires a bigger educational investment. Psychology uses a more science-based approach that often requires disciplined detachment. Psychologists may also face more challenging, prolonged cases, but tend to receive higher compensation.

Should I See a Counsellor or Psychologist?

If you're having problems or just want some help with an aspect of your life, you may be interested in talking with a therapist. But would a psychologist or counsellor be the better choice of professional to see? Here's a quick guide.

If you have a specific problem like relationship troubles, low self-esteem, or work issues, a counsellor is a good place to start. They are often more affordable and specialise in different areas. You don't need a referral from a GP to make an appointment either.

However, if you have suspected psychological issues like depression, anxiety, or severe stress that are impacting your day-to-day life, a psychologist may be a better choice. They have an extensive postgraduate education in mental health and can provide a diagnosis if needed. Although psychologists may cost more, you may be eligible for Medicare rebates with a referral from your GP.