What’s the Difference: Counsellor vs. Psychologist

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Do human behaviour and the inner workings of the brain fascinate you? Are you interested in a career in mental health? If you said ‘yes’ to both questions, you’ve probably considered pursuing a profession as a counsellor or a psychologist. Read on to learn about key differences between the two and to discover what you need to obtain in order to be qualified for either.

Key Differences

The main difference between a counsellor and a psychologist is their area of expertise. A counsellor is familiar with broader domains of mental health. Counsellors are trained to treat mental health issues that aren’t focused on a certain area. They can offer their services to those suffering from anxiety, going through family or relationship issues, being put through too much stress, and more. By identifying and talking about relevant problems, counsellors can help patients work through their issues and find ways to improve their mental health.   A psychologist, on the other hand, has gone through additional training and education, making them qualified to specialize in particular conditions and disorders. Hence, psychologists may be more capable of identifying and treating conditions of varying severities that a counsellor cannot. Those who suffer from schizophrenia or trauma, for example, would benefit from seeing a psychologist as they would be more equipped to help treat such conditions.   In terms of treatment, counsellors, through discussing and analysing present conditions and situations, can identify certain patterns or behaviours that may perpetuate mental health issues. Through observation and different methods of counselling, a counsellor can then advise short-term solutions to breaking out of such patterns and behaviours. On the other hand, psychologists have studied the mind and brain in depth and are more equipped to take a science-based approach to improving mental health conditions. Applying emotional or social techniques and using their understanding of human behaviours, psychologists can help with specific conditions or disorders at a deeper level.    

How Do I Qualify?

In Singapore, the most important step towards becoming a counsellor is first enrolling into a counselling programme that is recognized by the Singapore Accreditation Council (SAC). Additionally, you’ll need to fulfil other requirements, such as completing a certain number of hours of practicum and clinical supervision, as required by the SAC. After doing so, you can register to be a Provisional Clinical Member (PCM). After completing your PCM, you will then be eligible to begin employment as a professional counsellor and can eventually upgrade to the Clinical Membership, which will allow you to finally be recognized as a registered counsellor.   Although the journey toward becoming a counsellor sounds tedious, psychologists undergo even more years of education in order to become qualified. Depending on which type of psychologist you’re working towards becoming, you’ll need to meet specific requirements. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, psychologists also have to complete a master’s or doctoral degree in applied psychology. These degrees must have an applied focus in order to be recognized, meaning that research or theoretical coursework degrees are not considered. In addition to possessing a degree, psychologists also need to participate in formal professional training as well as supervised training. The Singapore Register of Psychologists (SRP) requires 1000 total hours of practicum, with minimum requirements on the numbers of client contact and supervised, and other practicum hours. Only after years of specialized training can one be recognized as a registered psychologist. Again, academic and other requirements are specific to the type of psychology you hope to go into, so additional research for your own path must be conducted to ensure that you meet them all.     In making the decision to pursue a career as a counsellor or a psychologist, there are many important factors to consider, whether it’s the level of education you are willing and able to reach or the specific duties that each job entails. We hope that this article has helped you arrive at a more informed decision and wish you the best of luck in your journey!     Join our Health Sciences Weekend to learn more about different pathways to careers in the health professions. We have FREE webinars for you to attend and get access to an extensive video library including exclusive interviews with practitioners in the medicine, veterinary science and counselling fields!  

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