Psychologist Vs. Therapist: Which Is Right For You?

When you're under stress, feeling depressed, experiencing anxiety attacks, or facing another psychological issue, it's crucial to visit a mental health professional to diagnose and treat your condition. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your mental health is as important as your physical health because it includes your social, emotional, and psychological well-being. Whether you're a child, an adolescent, or an adult, your mental well-being remains significant at every stage of life. The CDC further states that if you have poor mental health — or if you're suffering from a mental illness — it will not only affect your quality of life but could also be detrimental to your physical health. For instance, if you have depression, you become vulnerable to conditions like stroke, chronic illnesses, heart disease, and diabetes.

Mental health problems have become common these days. Statistics show that as of June 2020, 40% of adult Americans reported that they have been struggling with mental health issues or had resorted to substance use. Likewise, 40 million adults in the country — i.e. 18.1% of the population — suffer from anxiety disorders (via Mental Health First Aid).

With such a high prevalence of mental health issues among the population, many people seek the services of psychologists and therapists. But before booking an appointment, it's imperative to know the difference between the two to assess which one is right for you in accordance with your condition or circumstances.

The real difference between a psychologist and a therapist

While many people use the terms psychologist and therapist interchangeably, they are not the same. Even those who are associated with the field of psychology have ambiguity about the terms. Nonetheless, both professionals receive different training and education and use different approaches when it comes to practice (via Healthline).

Those having a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degrees can practice therapy. As Healthline explains, a minimum of a master's degree, often in social work for Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs), is required for therapists. To gain their licenses, therapists have to undergo several years of practice under supervision, via All Psychology Schools.

A psychologist can diagnose whether you are suffering from a mental disorder and recommend further treatment. If they deem it necessary, they can refer you to a psychiatrist — who is a medical doctor — to treat your condition through medication. On the other hand, the word "therapist" is broader in scope and is used for professionals who have received training and a license to treat mental health issues or provide rehabilitation to their patients. 

Therapists can also carry out psychoanalysis, which is a system of psychological theory and therapy aimed to treat mental disorders. You can find therapists specializing in different domains, such as social work, marriage counseling, and life coaching (via All Psychology Schools); there's sure to be someone who offers what you need.