There is often a bit of confusion when it comes to what a clinical psychologist does and what a psychotherapist does. This confusion has even led to individuals that are seeking help to making an appointment with the wrong professional.
Clinical psychologists have a very specific profession. They can either work as researchers in an academic setting, or become therapists and work with clients in a clinical or private setting. Being a psychotherapist, on the other hand, can involve various things as it's more of an umbrella term and can be used broadly.
To clarify, all clinical psychologists and other psychology professionals can put themselves under the term of psychotherapist, as it is a title given to any professional who provides therapy for clients.
The term psychotherapy can be used by various practitioners - for example, psychologists, psychotherapists, licensed clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals who have had further specialist training in psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy can be conducted one-on-one, in groups, with couples, and with families. This type of therapy helps people overcome their relationship issues, stress, emotional problems, or unwanted habits. Psychotherapy typically involves delving into verbal and non-verbal communication rather than using medications or physical interventions.
Different approaches in psychotherapy may include:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
- Arts and play therapy
- Psychoanalytic therapy
- Experiential constructivist therapy
- Psychodynamic therapy
- Systemic and family psychotherapy
- Humanistic and integrative psychotherapy
When it comes to education, both clinical psychologists and psychotherapists have educational requirements that need to be met before becoming licensed or certified. For both professions, an undergraduate degree is required.
Clinical psychologists major in psychology at the undergraduate degree level and then move on to take clinical psychology programs at the doctorate level. They are also required to complete clinical placements and a research thesis as well. After graduation, they can seek licensure in their state, as requirements for licensure can differ between states.
Psychotherapists, on the other hand, are not required to have an undergraduate education based in psychology, as psychotherapy training doesn't start until the graduate level. Therefore, as long as the student comes from a professional background, they will be eligible to train as a psychotherapist. Becoming a psychotherapist requires a graduate education, mandatory applied practice, and certification in certain states.
Medical psychotherapists are fully-qualified physicians who have qualified in psychiatry and have then decided to undertake another three to four-years of specialist training in psychotherapy. These specialized physicians are trained and educated in performing psychotherapeutic treatment of patients with psychiatric illnesses.