Psychotherapist vs Psychologist

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: March 3, 2022  •  5 min read  •  Mental Health
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If you’re trying to decide between a career as a psychotherapist or a psychologist, it’s probably because you want to help people. Both of these careers will put you in a position to help others. Either one will deal with those suffering from mental health conditions.

While psychotherapists and psychologists are similar, they are also different. Let’s look at what each of these careers is and how they are different.

Psychotherapist vs Psychologist

What is a Psychotherapist? states, “a psychotherapist uses talk therapy to treat people for emotional problems and mental illnesses.” The type of therapy given will depend on the specialty. Psychotherapists might work with individuals, families, couples, or groups.

This type of person will use talk therapy to help patients work through emotional issues. These issues may come from an illness or an acute trauma. It’s common for a psychotherapist to work with those suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders.

Some of the common roles of a psychotherapist include:

These duties are very common in this profession. The goal is always to make positive changes in the brain and body.

What is a Psychologist? provides the following description of psychologists, “psychologists study the mind and behavior to support people with mental health conditions. They might specialize in different subfields, such as clinical or forensic psychology.”

After going through extensive academic and clinical education, a psychologist has a strong understanding of behavior and the mind. They offer help to those suffering from mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. It’s common for a psychologist to use multiple methods of treatment including psychotherapy. They may also work with other health professionals when it comes to treating patients.

Psychotherapist vs Psychologist: The Key Differences?

Both psychotherapists and psychologists are therapists. Regardless of which you decide to become, you will go through special training and education. It’s common for both professions to get a doctoral degree and become practicing therapists.

Most psychotherapists will become psychologists first. They will get all the necessary training to become a psychologist, and then specialize in psychotherapy. You will still need to pass the Examination of Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) to become a psychotherapist.

The biggest difference between a psychotherapist and a psychologist is one is a much broader career than the other. A psychotherapist is a psychologist with a specialty. If you go into psychology, you will study the human mind. This general field can include many different branches of psychology including:

The list of different psychology specialties is very long. Psychotherapy is one of the specialties you will find on the list.

Patient Contact

While many types of psychologists will have patient contact, some won’t. It’s possible to go into psychology and work in research. However, most commonly, psychologists and psychotherapists will have contact with patients.

Psychotherapists will likely have contact with patients for a longer amount of time. They may see a patient once or twice a week for several years. Psychologists may only help patients until a specific time. For example, if you’re struggling with anxiety due to an upcoming exam, you might see a psychologist to help until you have taken the exam.


There is quite a difference in the salary between a psychotherapist and a psychologist, as well. Since the term psychologist is broad, it includes many professionals. puts the average salary of a psychologist at about $111K per year.

Psychotherapists are found under the general category of psychologists. However, this specialty doesn’t earn as much as a general psychologist. puts the average salary for a psychotherapist at about $87K per year.

Psychotherapist vs Psychologist: Why So Much Confusion?

Often, when the debate between psychotherapists vs psychologists is brought up there is confusion. This is due to the fact that both of these professions are very similar and overlap quite a bit. Since a psychotherapist will also be a psychologist, it should not come as a surprise that there’s confusion.

It can be hard to determine which type of person you should see if you’re struggling with an issue. Psychotherapists will use talk therapy to help with things, such as:

These daily issues can be addressed by a psychotherapist and treated through talk therapy.

Psychologists will treat some of the same things. They may treat anxiety, overwhelming feelings, addiction, suicidal thoughts, and more. The type of psychologist you become will likely determine what you treat.

Common Types of Psychology

Psychotherapy is one of the many types of psychology. It falls under this umbrella, which covers many specialties. The specialties all require additional education and training. Some of the most common specialties include:

All of these specialties fall under the umbrella of psychology. A psychotherapist can also specialize in helping specific types of people or treating specific disorders. They may specialize in addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, mood disorders, or even personality disorders.

Whether you decide to become a psychotherapist or a psychologist, you will be able to help people. Both career paths include quite a bit of education and training. Before you make your decision between the two, it’s important to understand what to expect.

You will likely study psychology before studying psychotherapy. When you choose your specialty, you can go into psychotherapy. This means you can go down the path to becoming a psychologist and decide later if you want to become a psychotherapist.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.