Frequently asked Questions

What is the difference between psychotherapy, psychology and psychiatry?


A psychotherapist works with people who have emotional, behavioural or psychological difficulties. The work is mainly to encourage the client to share and explore their feelings, beliefs and thoughts, and sometimes their childhood experiences. As a result, the work is often long term, and sometimes more than once a week depending on the type of therapy. Psychotherapists are not trained to diagnose disorders but can often assess if someone is suitable for psychotherapy. There are a number of different psychotherapeutic approaches, and they may be based on scientific, humanist, psychoanalytical, or other concepts.

Here is a general overview of the differences between Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists:

  • All three can work with people who have emotional, behavioural, psychological or mental disturbances.
  • All three can work in the private sector and in the NHS.
  • All three have had extensive training.
  • A psychologist is a general term for someone who has studied psychology, usually to degree level.
  • A clinical psychologist will have done further training to be able to administer psychological tests e.g. personality tests, intelligence tests. Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat disorders. Psychologists are scientists and usually both their diagnoses and treatments are based on statistical evidence. There are also forensic psychologists and educational psychologists amongst others.
  • A psychiatrist works within a medical framework and so will have trained as a doctor first and then specialised in psychiatry. Psychiatrists diagnose and treat disorders. Only psychiatrists and doctors can prescribe medication.

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