Psychology is the scientific study of human thought, emotion and behaviour. Clinical Psychology is an area of psychology that combines science, theory and clinical knowledge in order to better understand and support people experiencing psychological or emotional distress and promote their well-being.

Clinical psychologists aim to understand people’s thoughts and behaviours, so that they can help them make life changes, overcome emotional problems, and/or achieve life goals. To practice as a clinical psychologist in the UK it is necessary to complete a degree in psychology, often followed by a Masters, and have significant work experience as a psychology or research assistant before completing a further three-year postgraduate course leading to a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. This full-time course involves clinical, academic and research training. Due to their high level of research skills, clinical psychologists are considered scientist-practitioners, and are expected to provide innovative services, contribute to research and apply evidence-based practice. ‘Clinical Psychologist’ is a protected title by law, that is, to work as a clinical psychologist professionals need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which is the regulatory body set up to protect the public. The HCPC ensures that anyone in their register meets their standards for training, professional skills, behaviour and health.

What is the difference between a Clinical Psychologist, Psychiatrist, CBT Therapist, and Counsellor?

We all see the same type of people experiencing a range of psychological and emotional difficulties, the main difference is on the type of training and the approaches we use to help people overcome their difficulties. Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrist often work together, the main difference is that clinical psychologists apply the science of psychology to clinical problems, they try to understand people’s difficulties based on psychological theories, whilst psychiatrists are medically trained and inform their practice from the science of medicine. Psychiatrists’ main focus is on providing a mental health diagnosis and prescribe medication. Research indicates that for some severe mental health problems, a combination of psychological treatment and medication is most effective. Clinical psychologists do not prescribe medication, however, if after careful consideration it is thought to be beneficial I would be able to refer you to a psychiatrist for an assessment.

The main difference between clinical psychologists and counsellors is their approach to treatment. Whilst clinical psychologists aim at developing a shared understanding of the origins and maintenance factors of people’s difficulties in order to help them make changes and develop new coping strategies, counsellors provide a safe space for people to talk through their problems. Sometimes having some time and space to express your worries, fears, or emotions might be all you need to move forward, however, it is not effective when your difficulties are more entrenched and are impacting on your quality of life, or every day functioning as, unlike clinical psychologists, counsellors don’t provide active psychological treatments. What sets apart clinical psychologists from CBT therapist is their training on psychological principles and range of therapeutic approaches and modalities. Even when clinical psychologists inform their practice from cognitive behavioural principles, they are able to make sense of people’s experiences from a wider perspective, such as learning and developmental theories, neuropsychological processes, or other therapeutic modalities, rather than it being limited to CBT. Another significant difference between clinical psychologists and CBT therapists and counsellors is the type of training required and the qualifications obtained. CBT therapists and counsellors often complete shorter training, do not require research competencies and, although they often are registered with an accreditation body, unlike clinical psychologists, they do not need to be registered with the HCPC to practice. Before you decided which therapist might be right for you it is important that you check their training, professional qualifications and accreditations. If you are unclear as to whether a clinical psychologist might be able to help you, please, feel free to contact me for a free phone consultation.