Major Difference Between Counsellor and Clinical Psychologist

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Terminology in the therapy field can be confusing. A lot of people struggle to understand the difference between clinical psychology and counselling. This overlap is most often the result of the overlap of quite a few aspects. Aspiring psychologists, whether immersed in clinical or counselling studies, share one key component in common i.e. to help people. These are scholars who fundamentally crave to get an understanding of the minds that make up our world and strive to assist in addressing problematic behaviours. In terms of the soft skills required for the profession, these are insightful people who can learn to compose themselves in stressful situations, adapt well, and predict behaviours based on scientific information and cases they have studied.

However, to point out a key difference between clinical and counselling psychology, the clinical branch focuses on psychopathology — the study of mental disorders. On the other hand, counselling psychologists help patients or clients address emotional, social, and physical stressors in their lives.

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What does a Counsellor do?

Counselling psychologists often work with psychologically stable individuals seeking to alleviate the stressors in their life like

  • Social anxieties,
  • Relationship problems
  • Anxiety
  • Mild depression
  • Work-related problems
  • Emotional duress,
  • Insomnia problems, and more.

These might be related to their work life, family dynamics, chronic pain, compulsive disorders, romantic relationships, or substance abuse. The goal is to provide them with coping skills.

Counselling psychologists tend to be more holistic in how they practice. They may be employed in university counselling centres, mental health centres, and rehabilitation centres, but can also have a private practice. They may even choose to find an area of specialities, such as marriage and family, or develop cultural competencies, such as gender and sexuality.

What does a Clinical Psychologist do?

The work of clinical psychologists is rooted in the natural sciences of psychoanalysis, humanistic psychotherapy, and cognitive behavioural therapy. They treat primarily by instilling resilience in their clients. In practice, they work in hospitals and clinics, or in private practice. Some also work in clinical counselling settings in the field of social work.

The work of a clinical psychologist tends to overlap with psychiatrists (The difference being that a psychiatrist can prescribe medication but the clinical psychologist cannot). This basically began as a post-World War II effort to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in the returning troops and evolved the branch into a profession that broadly centres around mental illnesses that range from major depressive disorders to schizophrenia. The clinical psychologists also have an understanding of specific personality disorders and are also authorised to diagnose a few problems, whereas the same is not the case with counsellors.

Difference between counsellor and clinical psychologist

S.noBasisCounsellorClinical Psychologist
1Type of problemsDeals with the causes, treatment and prevention of various types of psychological disorders related to motivational and emotional problems.Provides therapy for behavioural problems usually related to mental disorders.
2Areas of concernTheir dealings are more general and they witness various kinds of psychological disorders in the everyday life of the patients. counselling psychologists favour humanistic and client-centred traditions.A clinical psychologist deals with specific and complicated psychological disorders. They focus mostly on psychoanalytic persuasions and behavioural issues.
3Educational qualificationCounsellors are professionally qualified and have completed recognised and accredited training in order to evaluate and respond holistically to the needs of individuals, families, couples, groups or communities to resolve a range of issues affecting their emotional wellbeing and social functioning. In certain countries, additional certifications apart from the general qualifications are also required.To be eligible for registration, a clinical psychologist must hold a master’s degree (MA) or doctorate (PhD) in clinical psychology. They may also have other qualifications, including board certification and additional training in a specific type of therapy.
4Modus operandiCounsellors help people with their professional choices in vocational rehabilitation programmes and help them to adjust to new situations in life.They diagnose problems by means of various interviews and psychological tests.
5Place of employmentA counselling psychologist is more often employed within a university, delivering counselling services.A clinical psychologist, on the other hand, works in hospitals.
6SalaryCounselling psychologists at the beginning of their careers can anticipate an annual median salary of $51,000, while those having an experience of about 5-20 years can expect around $65,000 annually.According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for clinical psychologists in the US is $70,580.

Where can you find a professional counsellor in India

Infiheal is here for your mental wellbeing. At Infiheal, we help you with Counselling sessions by providing the best professional and experienced counsellors for you.

Counselling sessions are available here via audio/video call, google meet or chat as per the convenience of our clients. It also has several advantages over traditional face-to-face sessions. Firstly, it provides our clients with the time and space they require to let out their problems in a structured manner. It is also much more secure as it is ensured by the policy.

People often find it difficult to understand whom to refer to between the two, in case of a problem, due to the overlapping similarities between the two. It is important to understand that a counsellor offers more advisory help to cope in distress situations, for a person dealing with general life problems causing hardships. A clinical psychologist on the other hand is a more specific kind of aid to help people dealing with severe mental issues that begin to impact their lives in a negative manner. It is important, therefore, to first understand who to refer to after exploring the kind of problems one is experiencing as it is important to find the right help in the right circumstances.


1. Which is better counsellor or psychologist?

This is a very situational decision and depends on the condition and choice of the client.

2. Can a counsellor prescribe medication?

A counsellor is a person who’s an expert in understanding human behaviour and how it functions. However, he/she is not authorized to prescribe medications.

3. Are Counselling psychologists doctors?

Counselling psychologists are the equivalent of medical doctors but in the mental health space. In almost all countries, they require a valid license for practice but do not prescribe medications as such.


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