Psychologist versus psychotherapist – What are the differences?

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Louise Barnett
Louise Barnett
I'm Louise Barnett, the editor at, where my days are filled with the exploration of myriad subjects that pique my curiosity and feed my ever-growing appetite for knowledge. From the latest in laser cutting technology to the timeless wisdom of yoga and meditation, my work allows me to dive deep into topics that not only fascinate me but also have the potential to improve our daily lives. I have a particular interest in how ancient practices meet modern life, leading me to explore everything from Ayurveda to minimalism and beyond. My journey has taught me the importance of balance—between innovation and tradition, action and reflection, and between the digital and the natural world. Each article I publish is a step towards understanding this balance better, hoping to inspire others along the way.

Psychologist and psychotherapist are two different categories of specialists. It is worth answering the question, what does a psychologist do? A psychologist deals with the study of factors affecting the functioning of the human psyche, diagnosis and psychological examination of emotional and mental disorders. A psychotherapist, on the other hand, is a person who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders through the use of various therapeutic techniques. Psychotherapy is a more interactive process than therapy conducted by a psychologist, who focuses mainly on examining and diagnosing emotional problems. A psychotherapist has a more direct and interactive effect on his or her clients, using which therapies that differ, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, gestalt therapy or psychoanalytic therapy. Both a psychologist and a psychotherapist are able to help people deal with emotional difficulties, but depending on the patient’s needs, they choose the appropriate approach and treatment methods. Therefore, people often do not know the difference between a psychologist and a psychotherapist. The difference is not, as evident as in the example of a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist or a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

Who is a psychologist?

Apsychologist is a specialist who studies human behavior, thoughts and emotions. This is a person with a master’s degree in psychology who is familiar with clinical, social, developmental, neuropsychological and other psychology. Psychologists are involved in diagnosing emotional problems, behavioral disorders and mental illnesses. In addition, the psychologist also conducts, initial psychological counseling. In psychological therapy, they use various methods and techniques to help the patient better understand himself, overcome fears, deal with relationship problems, and improve his self-esteem. A master’s degree in psychology is a humanities course and requires students to pass several theoretical subjects and internships. Psychologists often combine work in private practice with research or teaching at a university. They may also conduct workshops for mental health care. They also often broaden their professional scope through various postgraduate studies in other fields of psychology, which give them additional work authorizations. In Poland, psychologists are a professional group affiliated with the Polish Psychological Society, which takes care of the standards and ethics of psychological work.

Clinical psychologist – how to become one?

Aclinical psychologist is a person who deals with the diagnosis, therapy and prevention of various disorders. To become a clinical psychologist, you must first complete a psychology degree at a university. Then you need a clinical internship at a medical institution. This internship allows you to gain practical skills in therapy, diagnosing mental disorders and conducting therapy sessions. Once you have completed the clinical internship, you can enter the process of specialization in clinical psychology. Specialization lasts 4 years and includes theoretical and practical training. During the specialization, future clinical psychologists gain knowledge of work related to different groups of patients, including children and adolescents, adults and the elderly. During the specialization, interpersonal skills, empathy and the ability to work both in a group and individually must be demonstrated. After successfully completing the specialization and obtaining the required qualifications, one can become a clinical psychologist and start working in a clinic or private practice or counseling center. However, people often do not see the difference between a psychotherapist and a clinical psychologist.

Psychotherapist – how is it different from a psychologist?

A psychotherapist can help you in many different aspects of life. This is a specialist who deals with helping people with their emotional, cognitive and behavioral problems. There are different psychotherapeutic currents, such as cognitive-behavioral or psychodynamic, and psychotherapists often use different therapeutic techniques, depending on the patient’s problems and needs. These techniques and the ability to apply them is what differentiates a psychologist from a psychotherapist. In order to become a psychotherapist, a psychologist or a person after graduation who has completed a master’s degree giving such an opportunity can take training to become a psychotherapist. Most often these studies are around medicine or close to psychology. In the course of their training, psychotherapists learn, among other things, how to build a relationship with a patient, what are the most appropriate techniques in a particular trend or what are the limits of a psychotherapist’s work. Also, supervision, i.e. working with a more experienced therapist, helps develop skills and acquire new competencies. A prospective psychotherapist in training, through contact with another therapist, attends his or her own therapy.
A psychotherapist helps if you feel emotionally overwhelmed, have difficulty coping with everyday situations or are experiencing problems in relationships. It can be difficult to open up to meetings with a psychotherapist, but it’s worth remembering that this is time for you, dedicated to healing your emotional health and achieving the desired changes in your life. The support a psychotherapist provides can be significant in improving your quality of life.

What does a psychiatrist do?

A psychiatrist is a specialist doctor who diagnoses and treats mental disorders. To become one, you need to graduate from medical school and then do a specialization in this field. Usually patients go to a psychiatrist when their problems are beyond the psychologist’s area of expertise. Psychiatric specialization requires the doctor to obtain special licenses, which means that only a psychiatrist has the right to prescribe psychotropic drugs and conduct pharmacotherapy. A psychiatrist performs his tasks within the framework of psychiatry, a branch of medicine dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. A psychiatrist can introduce drug treatment, which is different from a psychologist. As a rule, the psychiatrist makes a referral to a psychologist or psychotherapist, who carries out therapy in cooperation with the doctor. Patients who need the help of a psychiatrist can see him for a diagnosis, because only a psychiatrist has the authority to prescribe the necessary drug therapy needed to treat certain disorders. However, at first glance, patients themselves often do not know which help they should use first – a psychologist or a psychiatrist. That’s why getting to know the functions of the profession in question is important, before the first contact.

Psychologist versus psychotherapist – who is the best person to go to?

If someone is looking for help in solving his emotional or behavioral problems, the first step he should take is to go to a psychological specialist. In Poland, people have two choices: a psychiatrist and a psychologist or psychotherapist. However, although these two professions seem similar, there are some differences between them. A psychiatrist is a doctor who can diagnose and treat mental illnesses, and only he can prescribe the medications needed for recovery. A psychologist and psychotherapist, on the other hand, are individuals who have a master’s degree in psychology and specialize in diagnosing and conducting psychotherapy. According to their competence, a psychologist is based on a psychological approach that helps analyze and understand the factors that cause emotional or behavioral problems. In turn, conducting psychotherapy, that is, processes that teach patients to cope with difficulties, improve relationships or change negative thought patterns and behavior, which is handled by a psychotherapist. You should visit a psychologist when you notice in yourself that a particular life situation is overwhelming you, it is worth going for psychological help. The psychologist will help take further action steps, depending on the patient’s needs. Therefore, before deciding on the most appropriate therapy, it is worth considering what is the difference between a psychologist and a psychotherapist and to whom to go. Often, it is these differences and similarities, between these professions, that can make the decision about the first contact difficult.

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