What Is the Difference Between a Mental Health Counselor, Social Worker, or Psychologist?

Question by Noa Bach: What is the difference between a mental health counselor, social worker, or psychologist?
I’m not sure what I want to do. But I know I want to provide counseling to all types of people (children, teens, adults, elderly) my main goal is to help heal them so this can end up healing the Planet 🙂
Don’t want to do any type of testing. I want to help children dealing with bullying, childhood trauma, etc. Adults that need healing from abuse, self-esteem, depression, family problems, sexuality issues etc.

Best answer:

Answer by Weird.
Mental health counselor (clinical psychologist) works with people who have schizophrenia and OCD
and much more

Social Worker works with kids, teens, and adults dealing with troubled living situations and such

Psychologists go in to depth with the patient and can work in a variety of environments, they also prescribe patients when needed.

You sound like you want to be a counseling psychologist which is different from a clinical psychologist. You should look into it more.

Answer by monique
The term mental health counselor is more of a job title, but really not a “licensure” level.

If one gets a Masters degree in social work, that can lead to licensure (each state has its own licensure regulations/rules) as a licensed clinical social worker. Part of the licensure process is also passing the ASWB national licensure exam for clinical social work. To become fully licensed it may take two to three years of clinical supervision. You can check out various licensure state requirements through the Association of Social Work Boards http://www.aswb.org This website provides links to all of the U.S. states licensure entity that regulates licensed social workers. Social workers can work in all settings. Licensed clinical social workers can have their own private practice, work with other licensed mental health professionals in private practice, as well as work in any other setting doing therapy and counseling. Licensed clinical social workers in most U.S. states can diagnose individuals out of the DSM-IV-TR http://www.psych.org/MainMenu/Research/DSMIV/DSMIVTR.aspx (this is a large manual of mental health disorders with coding and such).

A psychologist requires a PhD in psychology or a PsyD in counseling psychology. http://www.allpsychologyschools.com/psychology-careers/clinical-psychology/clinical-psychology-phd-psyd Your PhD psychology degrees will also have a research emphasis as well and are longer programs than the PsyD. There are more Universities, however, with the PhD in Psychology versus the PsyD. Each state has different licensure laws/regulations for what a psychologist can and cannot do. In my state, a psychologist cannot prescribe medications. Each state is different.

I am not sure what you mean by “testing”. However, if you are not interested in doing research……then the PhD in Clinical Psychology may not be for you. Here is a cut/paste of info from a PhD Clinical Psychology program “We expose our students to a number of forms of disciplined inquiry; these include those chiefly associated with quantitative methods and designs (such as survey research, cross-sectional and longitudinal designs, observational and experimental designs, and psychotherapy process and outcome research), as well as a range of other qualitative methods, including grounded theory analysis and other text-based analyses. We also expose students to a wide range of theoretical perspectives, including those emanating from dynamic, family systems, cognitive-behavioral approaches.” http://web.gc.cuny.edu/dept/psych/

There are licensed therapists (whether a licensed clinical social worker, psychologist, etc) who do provide therapy/counseling to all age groups. They however are more of a generalist. I will tell you that once you get to that higher level…most of your successful therapists are the ones who actually pick certain populations to work with because there is no way you can keep up on current therapy trends, important updates and such on all of the therapies out there. Most of the therapists who do see patients of all ages, always refer to other therapists when the patient needs more than they can provide. For example, if you are a psychologist and you have a new client who comes to you for depression. In your preliminary assessment in speaking with them, they admit they currently are addicted to drugs and alcohol. You would need to refer them to an experienced alcohol and drug rehabilitation therapist to help them with their addiction. Some of them specialize in dual diagnoses where they treat the mental illness and the addiction. You can’t have successful therapy/counseling with someone who has depression without treating their alcohol/drug addiction. There are therapists who specialize and focus their skills to be more effective. For example, there are therapists who focus on working with clients with eating disorders; therapists who focus on working with children; therapists who focus on working with older clients/elderly; therapists who focus on trauma; therapists who work with families; therapists who work with chronic mental illness; therapists who are drug and alcohol counselors (most states require an additional certificate as well in drug/alcohol counseling.

When I was in graduate school….you really see how much information is out there….and there is no way possible that one therapist can be great at it all….that is why some of your private practice therapists specifically choose certain populations and therapies to work in. Then they continue their education by attending conferences and workshops that specifically deal with their area of concentration.

Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!



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