Difference between counselling and psychology
People often ask the question “What’s the difference between counselling and psychology?” And it can be confusing because, although they are often used interchangeably, there are differences.
This is mostly complicated by the fact that many of the health care services provided both by counsellors and psychologists, tend to overlap.
This article will explore the differences between counselling and psychology in order to help you make an informed decision when deciding on a career path in mental health support.
Psychology vs Counselling
The distinction between a psychologist and a counsellor can mostly be seen in the training necessary to practice, as well as the wide variety of treatment both mental health professions offer.
How is a psychologist different from a counsellor?
Let’s start with the type of training and education both aspiring psychologists and counsellors must undertake to become employed within Australia.
Training to become a Counsellor
In Australia counselling is a self-regulated profession. That means, strictly speaking, you do not need a qualification to call yourself a Counsellor. However, a counsellor who does not have any qualifications cannot be registered by professional bodies and is therefore at risk of personal liability and legal trouble.
To gain accreditation with a professional body like the Australian Counselling Association a minimum of a degree or equivalent qualification is required. A qualification, like for example, the CHC51015 Diploma of Counselling or Graduate Diploma of Psychological Science usually only takes 12-16 months to complete within a university or TAFE.
Training to become a Psychologist
On the other hand, becoming a psychologist requires the completion of four years of education and training through a university degree. Upon completion of an undergraduate university degree, further education must be undertaken to become a registered clinical psychologist. In most cases, this is achieved through a Master’s or Doctoral university degree, which also includes two years of supervised clinical practice hours to complete.
Psychology in Australia is heavily regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency (AHPRA) and requires practising clinical psychologists to be registered to work within Australia.
What type of support do counsellors and psychologists offer?
Now that we’ve discovered the depth of experience and training required in both professions, let’s take a look at the type of support counsellors and psychologists offer.
What Type of Support Do Counsellors Offer?
Counsellors most commonly support people struggling with issues that can be dealt with on a conscious level. Some of the common area’s counsellors assist with include:
• family and relationship problems
• school counselling
• financial counselling
• career goals
• domestic violence
• drug and alcohol and addiction (behavioural)
• grief and loss
• anger management
Counselling therapies is typically considered as a short term treatment, providing clients with a space to understand and process difficult circumstances. During therapy sessions, counsellors will help people by unpacking and discussing a range of powerful feelings and concerns like stress, worry, mild-moderate depression, trauma, sadness, anger and more.
By giving patients this sort of assistance, counsellors are able to deliver ‘practical life answers’ by clarifying the issues, exploring alternatives, developing strategies, and enhancing self-awareness.
A referral from a GP is not required to book a consultation with a counsellor.
What Type of Support Do Psychologists Offer?
Clinical psychologists, on the other hand, are trained to work with clients facing mental health illnesses that are more serious in nature. A psychologist’s role involves diagnosing mental health disorders and providing various specialised treatments.
This level of therapy is typically more suitable for clients suffering from a wide range of severe mental health issues including;
- bipolar disorder
- chronic anxiety
- panic disorders
- severe depression
- personality disorders
During the initial consultations, psychologists will conduct a series of extensive examinations of a person’s psychological history to gain a complete diagnosis.
After this initial assessment, psychologists might provide specialised therapy as part of their services. Some of these treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), dialectical behaviour therapy and more. Along with psychotherapy, psychologists may work with psychiatrists to prescribe medication to treat mental illness.
Psychotherapy is regarded as long term treatment that can last from a few months to years, depending on the mental health issues being dealt with.
In most cases, GP’s will refer clients to psychologists and psychiatrists with a completed Mental Health Treatment Plan.
Can I be a counsellor with a psychology degree?
Studying for a psychology degree will give you in-depth training and skills to become a counsellor. As mentioned before however, it is possible to become a counsellor without a psychology degree.
If you are interested in Counselling but not sure you want to practice as a Counsellor then a Diploma of Counselling or a Diploma of Mental Health can have you qualified in 1/3 the time, at a fraction of the cost.
While you don’t necessarily need a qualification to call yourself a Counsellor, you do need one to become a registered member of peak bodies like the Australian Counselling Association (ACA), Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) and Australian Register of Counsellors & Psychotherapists (ARCAP).
• NDIS Counsellors must be ACA members (or equivalent)
• Diploma of Counselling graduates can become ACA members
• Unqualified Counsellors cannot take out professional indemnity or public liability insurance
Registration provides representation, access to cost-effective professional insurance, training, and importantly an acknowledgement that their experience meets industry standards.
Interested in a career in Counselling?
If you are interested in working as a counsellor or psychologist but not sure where to start then you may want to consider studying a Diploma of Counselling or a Diploma of Mental Health. These qualifications equip aspiring mental health professionals with practical skills and knowledge to become employed and working in the industry. By achieving these qualifications, you will also be well-placed to undertake further studies into a psychology or social work related university degree.
Hear what our students of Counselling have to say:
“I started a Diploma of Counselling in August last year after realising that I needed to do something more fulfilling with my life and help people suffering from challenging issues. This must be one of the best decisions that I have ever made. Not only am I getting a qualification, life skills, but above all, this course is life-changing and has made me think, feel and see people, life and relationships in a completely new light. It gives you greater self-awareness on your life and realises why you are the person you are, as well as understanding your core beliefs and how they have been formed within you” – says Lorraine Maggs (Diploma of Counselling graduate).
“The Diploma of Counselling has trained me with a range of skills related to helping people suffering from mental illness. I am now able to talk and connect with patients on a deeper, more personal level” – Sheree Fitzpatrick (Diploma of Counselling graduate).
Think you’re ready to take the next steps?
If you have been thinking about working in counselling and mental health and want to make a start in a career that provides support and assistance to people suffering from challenging issues, find out more about our Nationally Recognised Diploma courses here.