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Difference Between Clinical Psychologist & Mental Health Counselor

Those interested in a career in mental health may be curious about how the work of clinical psychologists and mental health counselors differs. This article explores these professions and the different training requirements and duties they have.

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Comparing Clinical Psychologists to Mental Health Counselors

Clinical psychologists and mental health counselors both work in the mental health field. Their duties have many similarities, but clinical psychologists are required to have more education and can expect a higher salary. They are more likely to work with patients who have diseases or medical injuries affecting their mental health.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)**
Clinical Psychologists Doctoral Degree $74,433 20% (for all clinical, counseling, and school psychologists)
Mental Health Counselors Master's Degree $40,230 20%

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

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Responsibilities of Clinical Psychologists vs. Mental Health Counselors

Clinical psychologists and mental health counselors are both involved with seeing patients who have issues related to their mental health. Professionals in both fields may diagnose patients and determine how to treat their condition. They also spend a lot of time meeting with patients and providing counseling. Clinical psychologists can work with patients with a range of issues, including mental health problems caused or affected by illness or injury, and may need to understand how the brain works or how different types of medical conditions can impact behavior. They may refer patients to other health professionals if they determine that's in the patient's best interests. Mental health counselors primarily focus on treating their patients through counseling.

Clinical Psychologists

Clinical psychologists are mental health professionals. They may work with patients affected by medical issues such as a brain disease or their patients may be coping with a difficult situation in their life that is affecting their mental health. Clinical psychologists are required to have a doctoral degree in their field. They also need to be licensed, and their training may also involve completing an internship. Clinical psychologists may be employed in a variety of medical settings, including offices and clinics, or they may work in schools or hospitals. Evening hours may be required in this field.

Job responsibilities of a clinical psychologist include:

  • Listening to patients
  • Reviewing patient files
  • Diagnosing patients
  • Exploring treatment options
  • Counseling patients
  • Documenting the patient's progress

Mental Health Counselors

Mental health counselors work within the mental health field. Their patients may be coping with personal problems, such as addiction. A master's degree in a relevant discipline, such as psychology, is usually required and mental health counselors must also be licensed. Practical training is also required to enter this field. It's common for mental health counselors to work evenings and weekends, and they are often employed in outpatient centers or hospitals. They need to be good at working with people and have strong communication skills.

Job responsibilities of a mental health counselor include:

  • Traveling to see patients when required
  • Holding individual patient sessions
  • Identifying their patient's condition
  • Explaining strategies that can help their patients
  • Updating patient files
  • Monitoring their patient's progress

Related Careers

Another career option for those interested in psychology is to become a psychiatrist, since psychiatrists also focus on working with patients with mental health problems. If being a mental health counselor is appealing then being a social worker may be an option, since social workers also provide counseling services to people who are having personal issues.

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