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Flower Blossoms

Counsellors and Psychologists- What's the Difference?

This post took me a little while to put together! Since beginning my Masters of Counselling over 10 years ago I've had this question come up numerous times. On a personal level, as a proud counsellor, it's important to me to raise awareness around what we do and where we fit in. I've been in many professional settings where counsellors have been overlooked or forgotten, not due to malice but just perhaps a lack of understanding.

Speaking with my counsellor and psychologist peers, we agreed that there are usually far more similarities than differences in how we work. If you were to sit in on a session, a lot of the time you might not notice a clear difference. However there are some distinct areas where the professions differ and I wanted to provide a little overview.

Differences In-Session



Does not diagnose or assess but can provide ongoing therapy following a diagnosis; likely to use psychotherapy in this scenario.

May provide diagnoses, formal assessments and ongoing treatment. (Note- not all psychologists diagnose/assess)

Collaborative and client-centred. Direction of therapy guided largely by the client.

Can be (not always) more directive in sessions due to processes undertaken and targeted nature of the work.

Modalities and interventions are typically integrated to suit client needs and preferences.

Commonly trained in and use particular treatment models that target specific issues (i.e. CBT, Mantra, Schema, FBT).

More likely to integrate expressive and somatic techniques- art, symbols, movement, music, nature.

More likely to incorporate psychometric outcome measures.

Note: These differences are not always present and many exceptions exist! It is most helpful to speak with a therapist about their approach and how they might support your specific needs/challenges before starting therapy.

Differences in Study Pathway



Study focus: Develop advanced interpersonal skills; learn approaches & techniques for diverse settings; research/analysis skills.

Study focus: Apply scientific method to human behaviour; assess, diagnose and treat mental health conditions; analysis/research skills.

Often specialise- e.g. relationship counselling, trauma counselling, mental health counselling.

Different types based on training and specialisation (general, forensic, clinical, etc).

Less regulated- variance in those using “counsellor” title, e.g. Bachelors, Masters, Certificate, Diploma, short-course etc.

Heavily regulated profession- specific qualifications and registration required

Only certain qualifications meet eligibilty for registration with professional regulatory bodies - ACA and PACFA.

Must be registered with AHPRA to practice with “psychologist” title.

This is a general (and VERY brief) overview- Universities and other education providers emphasise different aspects of psychology and counselling.

Other Important Points

We often work together:

In many settings- non-government organisations (NGOs), private practices, schools, etc- you will find counsellors and psychologists working collaboratively alongside one another.

Mental health care plans:

Currently, counsellors cannot provide mental health care plans- only psychologists, mental heath OTs and mental health social workers are recognised by the Medicare Scheme.


To account for not yet being included in the Mental Health Care Plan scheme counsellors commonly price sessions similar to gap fees to minimise financial barriers.


Counsellors and Psychologists are both eligible to see clients under NDIS (depending on the individual client’s package).

So...Who Should I See?

Ultimately, it is up to you and what you need. Finding a therapist who you trust, are comfortable with and who you feel understands and can support your needs is one of (if not THE) most important part. If you are unsure about a counsellor or psychologist’s training, areas of experience or therapeutic approach- ask for more information. We want you to feel as informed, safe and empowered as possible at the start of your therapy journey!

If you have any questions or would like to know more about my qualifications, experience or approach to counselling, please get in touch.

Thank you to my wonderful counsellor and psychologist colleagues/friends who proof-read the information I've provided here. I also want to acknowledge the amazing work of social workers and mental health social workers. Some of my greatest mentors and colleagues are phenomenal practitioners from this discipline (oh- and several family members!). It would be remiss not to give them their due kudos and leave them out of this conversation!


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