What is a Psychotherapist vs. Psychologist?

session with psychotherapist, woman with depression solves mental difficulties and talks about problems to male psychologist

When embarking on a journey to better mental health, it’s crucial to understand the roles of different mental health professionals. Two common types are psychotherapists and psychologists. Though they may seem similar, their training, qualifications and approaches to treatment can differ. 

Understanding the differences between psychotherapists and psychologists can help you make the right choices for treatment and get the help you need to manage your mental health. 


What is a Psychotherapist?

A psychotherapist is a term that encompasses professionals with a unique set of skills who are trained to treat mental health disorders through talk therapy. These professionals come from various educational backgrounds, including psychology, psychiatry and counseling. 

They use a range of therapeutic approaches, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Psychodynamic Therapy, to help individuals manage and overcome mental health issues like anxiety, depression and Bipolar Disorder. They work in different settings, such as private practices, hospitals and mental health clinics.


What is a Psychologist?

A psychologist is a mental health professional who holds a doctorate degree in psychology. They are extensively trained in the study of the mind and behavior and are equipped to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychologists are trained to provide psychotherapy and also conduct psychological testing and research.

They treat a wide range of issues, including depression and trauma and may focus on a specific area of study, such as counseling psychology. They work in various settings, such as private practices, hospitals, schools and research institutions.


Differences Between Psychotherapists and Psychologists

While both psychotherapists and psychologists are dedicated to improving mental health, there are several key differences. The following explains these distinctions and how they impact the type and depth of care you can receive: 


Factor Psychotherapist Psychologist
Education Varies (may include master’s degrees or certifications) Doctorate (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in psychology
Treatment Focus Provides talk therapy to address emotional and behavioral issues Clinical psychologists offer talk therapy, psychological testing and diagnosis for a wide range of mental health conditions
Therapeutic Approaches Uses various methods such as CBT, psychoanalysis and humanistic therapy Uses evidence-based therapies, often combining therapy with psychological assessments
Medication Cannot prescribe medication; works in conjunction with psychiatrists or primary care physicians if medication is needed Cannot prescribe medication; collaborates with psychiatrists or primary care physicians for medication management
Specializations May focus on specific types of therapy or populations (e.g., marriage counseling, addiction therapy) Can specialize in areas such as clinical psychology, child psychology, neuropsychology and health psychology


Psychiatrists: A Related Profession

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health. Unlike psychotherapists and psychologists, psychiatrists hold a medical degree and can prescribe medications. They often work alongside these professionals to provide comprehensive care for mental health conditions. 

Their focus is on diagnosing mental illnesses, managing medications and providing medical treatments.

Dr. Robert Glenn leads our team of qualified mental health providers at Empathy Health Clinic. Having graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina and completed his residency in Psychiatry and Behavioral Science there, Dr. Glenn has been practicing psychiatry since November 2010. His extensive training and experience enable him to effectively diagnose and treat mental health conditions, ensuring patients receive thorough and personalized care.


Choosing the Right Professional for Your Needs

Deciding between a psychotherapist and a psychologist depends on your specific needs and the type of therapy you are seeking. If you require a comprehensive assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a mental health disorder, a psychologist may be the right choice. However, if you are looking for talk therapy to manage specific life circumstances or emotional issues, a psychotherapist might be more suitable.


Get the Help You Need With Empathy Health Clinic

Understanding the differences between a psychotherapist and a psychologist can help you make an informed decision about your mental health care. Both professionals play vital roles in treating mental health problems and improving well-being. At Empathy Health Clinic, our skilled mental health professionals are here to support you on your journey toward better mental health. Whether you need talk therapy, psychological assessments or medication management, we provide the care and guidance you need. Book an appointment today to get started.