What is a Counselling Psychologist?

by Harley Therapy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

A psychotherapist attends school to study how to help clients with their wellbeing. They study the history of psychotherapy and the different schools of psychotherapeutic thought. During their studies they attend therapy themselves, to develop a deeper understanding of the process. By the time they are in their third year of study they will start working with clients as a trainee therapist.

When a student graduates with an MA in psychotherapy, he or she is qualified to work with individuals or couples, depending on their school of training. With additional training they might also work with families and groups.

A counselling psychologist, on the other hand, goes to school originally to study psychology. They study human behaviour and the mind. They also learn how to carry out and understand research methods.

After completing a BA in general psychology (or a conversion course), a student might decide to go into psychological research. Or, they may decide they would like to work with people. If so, their next step is to take a doctorate of counselling psychology (generally three years).

So a counselling psychologist also studies how to help you with emotional and psychological issues. It’s jus that they originally come from a more scientific background.

When a counselling psychologist graduates, they, too, can choose to work with individuals, families, and groups, plus also organisations.

A counselling psychologist is also versed in research-based approaches to understanding mental health, like psychometric testing and observation. So they might choose to work in the workplace, education, prisons, and hospitals.

But what about the way counselling psychologists work with individual clients? Will that be different that what a psychotherapist does? Essentially, no. They both use talk therapy to help you solve personal problems and improve your daily life. A counselling psychologist might choose to use things like psychometric tests in their work with you, but talk therapy is talk therapy.

Any other difference will depend on the counselling psychologist themselves.

Like psychotherapists, a counselling psychologist can choose to focus on one approach to talk therapy over another. They will also continue to take new training and update their skills. So you might find that a psychotherapist who offers cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has more in common with a counselling psychologist who offers CBT than another counselling psychologist who focuses on psychodynamic psychotherapy.

And therapy is largely a relationship. Each talk therapist, regardless of their training, will have their own way of interacting with clients depending on their personality.

So is a counselling psychologist or you? It depends. If you are a firm believer in science, then perhaps yes.

But it is also important to choose a therapist you feel you can get along with and grow to trust, which could be seen as more important than whether a talk therapist comes from a psychotherapy or counselling psychology background.

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