Difference Between Clinical Psychologist & Counseling Psychologist

Clinical and counseling psychologists perform many similar tasks. Clinical psychologists may treat patients with medical issues, while counseling psychologists focus on helping people cope with problems. Read on to compare these careers further.

Comparing Clinical Psychologists to Counseling Psychologists

Psychologists are primarily interested in human behavior and how that may be influenced by the brain and other factors. The distinction between clinical and counseling psychologists lies in the focus of their work. Counseling psychologists primarily see people who are having personal problems while clinical psychologists may also work with people who have mental health illnesses.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)**
Clinical Psychologists Doctoral Degree $74,433 20% (for clinical, counseling and school psychologists)
Counseling Psychologists Doctoral Degree $57,873 20% (for clinical, counseling and school psychologists)

Sources: *PayScale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Clinical Psychologists vs. Counseling Psychologists

Clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists are both involved in seeing clients and talking to them about their issues. They may provide ongoing counseling sessions to help their clients work through issues in their life or develop strategies to manage or alter their behavior. Their work involves taking notes and updating patient records. Clinical psychologists can also diagnose patients who have mental illnesses or medical conditions that may be affecting their behavior. Some, such as those specializing in health matters, may concentrate on research and help create programs to treat people with specific health issues.

Clinical Psychologists

Clinical psychologists work with patients who may have personal problems or may have a disorder that affects their behavior. A doctoral degree and license are normally needed to become a clinical psychologist. Some of the tasks clinical psychologists do may vary based on their location. For example, in some states clinical psychologists can prescribe medication to their patients. Some may choose to specialize in fields such as neuropsychology, which may involve working with people who have suffered brain damage or another medical condition that impacts their behavior. They typically work in hospitals, offices or other medical facilities.

Job responsibilities of a clinical psychologist include:

  • Consulting with other medical professions
  • Talking to clients
  • Reviewing medical records
  • Conducting medical tests
  • Diagnosing clients and determining how to treat them
  • Providing counseling for clients and their family members

Counseling Psychologists

It may be possible to become a counseling psychologist with a master's degree, but most of the professionals in this field have a doctoral degree. A license is required by most states. Counseling psychologists focus on working with people who are experiencing problems in their life. Since it's important for their patients to trust them and know that the will maintain their confidence, they need to be good at working with people. They may work in hospitals, private offices or clinics and their schedule may include working outside of standard daytime business hours.

Job responsibilities of a counseling psychologist include:

  • Asking clients questions
  • Listening to clients discuss issues
  • Reviewing information from other medical professionals
  • Determining the most effective strategies to help with clients' issues
  • Communicating with other involved parties, such as family members
  • Maintaining detailed notes about their sessions

Related Careers

Since clinical psychologists are interested in human behavior, those thinking about this career may also be interested in being a sociologist since sociologists also study how people behave. Those considering becoming a counseling psychologist may also be interested in the work that substance abuse counselors do, since they provide counseling services to people who have addictions.

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