The Difference Between Counselor, Psychologist, & Psychiatrist

PsychologyClinical Psychology

As we are progressing, the stresses of our life are also increasing. In this hustle culture, people find it difficult to derive some time for themselves. The work environment around us has become a rat race, where everyone wants to be the first. Due to such a toxic environment, people have started adapting to regular cycles, which do not include free time to deal with their emotions, introspect themselves, and get proper sleep.

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Also, due to a lack of awareness around psychology and mental health, the concept of " toxic positivity" is being promoted. Such vicious cycles can lead to burnout, emotional problems, irritability, and behavioral problems like alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, and so on. So, to tackle such mental health issues, people trained in psychology understand the depth and intricacies of human behavior. These professionals qualify as Counselors, Psychologists, and Psychiatrists depending on their roles, specializations, and qualifications. Are all these terms connote same meaning or have some differences? Let’s understand each one of them separately


A counselor is a practitioner who focuses on less severe problems like motivation, academic-oriented difficulties, inability to cope with the daily stresses of life, and emotional behaviors that are distressing but can be dealt with some help or guidance. A counselor is often employed in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. A counselor, more popular as a counseling psychologist, looks after the individual's mental well-being and acts as a guide to help them deal with their problems. In counseling also, there are many subfields like a school counselor, rehabilitation counselor, career counselor, etc. A counselor cannot provide you with long-term intensive therapies or with medication as they are not extensively trained in these areas. Counseling sessions are usually for a short period. If a person is highly distressed and has not been relieved by counseling sessions or the counselor detects some serious mental health disorder, they will refer to a psychologist or psychiatrist depending upon the case.


A psychologist is a professional who is extensively trained in dealing with mental health disorders like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and psychotic disorders. They are trained to assess and diagnose the disorders and treat them using various therapies. Psychologists use therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, etc., to treat mental health disorders but they cannot prescribe medicines as they are not qualified for. Every therapist is unique in their approach. Psychologists work in different settings like hospitals, rehabilitation centers, correctional facilities, legal settings, etc. apart from these schools of psychology, some therapists are extensively trained in Expressive Arts, Dance Therapy, Music Therapy, etc. To be a Clinical Psychologist in India, you need to complete your master's in psychology and then go for a Ph.D. or MPhil. As a Clinical Psychologist, you will Apply different intervention plans that include therapies and other techniques


A psychiatrist is a professional who holds a medical degree along with psychology degree and is qualified to prescribe medicines. The main difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist is the eligibility to prescribe medicines. Usually, psychiatrists and therapists work together on a single case when neither medicine nor Therapy individually is working. In most cases, both Therapy and medicine are needed. A psychiatrist holds value in the psychology discipline as disorders are also caused by hormonal imbalances or biological issues that medicines can correct. Most people view medicines as something that will make them dependent on them, and they would not be able to work without it. Nevertheless, this is a myth as if an individual takes medicines under the proper prescription of the doctor, then they would not need it for a long time. Only for severe disorders like schizophrenia which is a debilitating disorder, medicines are needed for a much longer duration

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Likewise, based on their expertise counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists, all are different, but all hold the same value and credit in the mental health field. In today's scenario, the lines between them are blurred. This is happening due to a lack of mental health practitioners. It is high time, we should start seeing psychology as a subject that needs to be taken more seriously, respecting the professionals in this field and giving them their due credit.

Updated on 13-Oct-2022 11:19:47