Differences Between Counseling and Psychology

For those who are interested in learning about the many facets of the human mind, both counseling and psychology are good choices of subjects to study. While the requirements for the work professionals do in these two fields often overlap each other, there are key differences between the two subjects that should be understood by anyone who is considering majoring in one or the other.

Illness Versus Problems

Clinical psychologists treat mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, while counselors focus more on daily problems that people often have such as substance abuse or anger issues. Psychologists will often work in conjunction with psychiatrists to not only offer psychotherapy to help people better manage their diseases and illnesses, but to also get them access to the medications they need in order to be more functional. Counselors on the other hand, talk to patients in order to help them resolve conflicts and solve problems that are negatively impacting their lives at that moment.

Perspectives on Treatment

Counselors deal with the here and now, showing their patients how to best handle problems and difficulties that commonly affect people at some point in their lives. By contrast, clinical psychologists are often intrigued by the past, seeing mental illness as having developed from past traumas, abuse, or harmful situations. These divergent perspectives are one of the most distinct differences between the two professions.

Practical Versus Theoretical

Counselors work to help patients develop better problem-solving skills when it comes to handling crises of either a personal or professional nature. They take a much more practical approach to the treatment, seeing the problems presented to them as being primarily caused by the patient's inability to cope with the daily stress and burdens of life. They offer advice that appeals to the rational and logical side of the human mind.   Clinical psychologists, on the other hand, see problems as primarily the result of the unconscious mind and how it handles unresolved issues that usually occur during the patient's childhood or adolescence. To them the mind is a puzzle that must be unlocked and the only way to successfully do so is by applying a number of theories from notable psychologists like Jung and Freud in an attempt to analyze the mental states of patients.

Work Environment

Clinical psychologists tend to work in hospitals or private practices where they help to treat a wide range of mental illnesses and emotional problems. Counselors typically work for organizations such as substance abuse centers and for schools where they usually treat patients suffering from common problems. 


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