About Mental Health Professionals

About Mental Health Professionals

When looking for such professionals, we may come across many different terminologies or designations such as Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Counsellors, Clinical psychologists, and so on.

These are the designations you may have come across often, but might be still unclear about their meaning. 

Clinical Psychologists and Counsellors are both mental health practitioners. They often have overlapping duties. However, there are some distinctions, both in their training and their scope of practice.


A counselling psychologist has a stronger focus on healthy individuals, who have fewer pathological mental problems. A counsellor should have a master’s degree in a counselling program A mental health counselling master’s program typically lasts between three and two years.

Counsellors typically work in fields such as marriage and family counselling, or career and guidance fields. They may be found in mental health clinics, child and aged centers, youth welfare or marriage guidance services.

Counseling psychologists integrate psychological theory and research with therapeutic practice. They work closely with clients to look at mental health issues and explore the underlying problems that may have caused them. They work collaboratively with individuals to empower them to make decisions for themselves to improve their sense of personal wellbeing. They work across a range of human problems including bereavement, relationships, mental health issues and other significant life events. They work in many places including industry, the prison service, and in all levels of the education system. However, about half of all counseling psychologists are employed to do clinical work in health and social care settings.

Clinical Psychologists

Psychologists have practical and research skills that may be applied in many fields, including health, education and management. They may work with individuals going through both mental health issues and emotionally healthy clients who need help understanding behavioral problems.

As a Clinical Psychologist, you need to have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology followed by a Master’s degree in Psychology. To practice as a Clinical Psychologist (treating mental disorders), you require an additional 2 years of study to obtain an M.Phil. in Clinical Psychology. A total of 5 to 7 years of study (3 years of B.A. + 2 years of M.A. + 2 years if you go for an M.Phil.) are required.

Clinical psychologists aim to reduce psychological distress and to enhance and promote psychological well-being. They deal with several mental and physical problems including anxiety, depression, addiction, and relationship problems. To assess clients, they use a variety of methods including psychometric tests, interviews, and observation, and work primarily in health and social care settings including hospitals and community mental health teams. Due to their role as a scientist-practitioner, they are also involved heavily with research and in the evaluation of current services to provide a strong evidence base for practice.

Psychologists primarily utilize different types of therapies to manage symptoms and help their patients cope with their life problems. They may use different forms of therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Psycho-dynamic Therapy, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), Gestalt Therapy, Humanistic Therapy, etc. They are also qualified in conducting psychometric tests, which evaluate a person’s mental state and personal attributes to determine the right course of action for the patient.

In addition to performing direct clinical psychotherapy, psychologists may work as behavioral scientists, in human resource management, marketing, and clinical research. Their work settings include private practice, hospitals, schools, laboratories and universities, and consulting firms.

Counselors and Clinical psychologists often collaborate when serving patients. Again, remember that Clinical Psychologists may use counseling techniques as well as psychotherapy.

Clinical psychologists receive a wealth of training in theoretical orientations, including psychoanalytic, behavioral, and cognitive-behavioral theoretical foundations, among others (Norcross, 2000). Clinical psychologists work in a variety of settings, such as but not limited to, universities, community mental health centers, private practice, hospitals, inpatient settings, primary care settings, and academic medical centers (Brems & Johnson, 1997; Norcross, 2000). While clinical psychologists work with a broad range of psychopathology and clinical diagnoses, they also receive more extensive clinical training with serious psychopathology, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorders, among others (Morgan & Cohen, 2008).

There is considerable overlap between counseling and clinical psychology. Traditionally, however, the main difference between counseling and clinical psychology is their perspective and training. Counseling psychologists, in general, focus more on healthier, less pathological populations whereas clinical psychology focuses on individuals with more serious mental health issues such as psychosis. The reality is that both types of psychologists work with similar patients and in similar settings so that the distinction between them is increasing small.


A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor with a medical degree in Psychiatry. To be a Psychiatrist you will first have to complete your MBBS, followed by an M.D. in Psychiatry. Thus, a total of 7.5 years of study (5.5 years of MBBS + 2 years of M.D.) is required.

They specialize in the treatment, diagnosis, and prevention of mental health problems. However, like medical doctors, they write prescriptions to help patients manage disorders such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder 

Whereas Clinical Psychologists focus extensively on psychotherapy and treating emotional and mental suffering in patients with behavioral intervention. A psychiatrist might make an initial assessment and diagnosis, then refers to a Clinical psychologist for further psychological treatment. 

The biggest difference between the two is in the approach they take towards treating mental disorders. A Psychiatrist Takes a medication-first approach in their treatment. Once the diagnosis is done, they build a treatment course plan for the patient, focusing on managing symptoms through the use of medications. While they may also be trained in psychotherapies like psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more, in a typical mental health care setting, the work of therapies is generally taken care of by Psychologists.


Tanisha Dhingra

Content Intern

March 30, 2021