What is the difference between a Counsellor, a Psychotherapist, a Psychoanalyst and a Psychiatrist?

There is some overlap, (and some different opinions) – and also some difference between these various titles. If you are unsure this is something you can ask your therapist about. They should be able to explain clearly to you how you will work together and what you can expect.

Psychiatrists are qualified medical doctors, specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. They can prescribe psychiatric medication.  Although many psychiatrists have also received some training in psychotherapy and counselling skills, the way they understand and approach their patients is likely to be very different from how a counsellor relates to a client.

Psychologists study behaviour and mental processes. A psychologist usually means someone who has a degree in psychology, but legally anyone can call themselves a psychologist. Many work in research, in business or in education. They also administer and interpret psychological tests and assessments.

Clinical Psychologists undergo further specialist training to qualify in 'talking' therapies. They are able to assess and treat patients but they are not medical doctors and do not prescribe drugs. They may also have received some training in counselling skills. The way they understand and approach their patients may or may not be very different from how most counsellors relate to their clients, depending on which theories they favour.

Chartered Psychologist is a professional recognition for psychologists and reflects a high standard of psychological knowledge and expertise.

A Counselling Psychologist is a counsellor who has an initial training in psychology and who uses methods and models drawn from the science of psychology in his or her work.

Psychoanalysts are practitioners of psychoanalytic psychotherapy within the tradition founded by Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis places emphasis on the importance of unconscious forces in the way the mind works and requires a long and demanding training. Theories derived from psychoanalysis about human development and the practice of psychotherapy are an important influence for many counsellors.

Counsellors/Psychotherapeutic Counsellors/Psychotherapists will have training in both the theory and practice of how to work with a variety of people with a wide range of emotional distress and whose lives may be affected by both external factors (job loss, bereavement) and internal issues (low self-esteem, anxiety). Counselling and psychotherapy are closely related and the skills and knowledge needed are very similar. Counsellors are somewhat more likely to do shorter-term work focusing on particular problems such as addiction and bereavement, while psychotherapists often encourage a deeper, more fundamental process of change in clients who seem to require it. 

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