OU MIGHT ASK
the simple question, What is the difference between clinical
psychology and counseling psychology? The answer, however, is not at
all simple because psychology can be applied in many different ways.
Some persons who study psychology end up practicing as counselors, some practice
as psychotherapists, and some practice as psychologists. To make it even
more complicated, some psychologists use techniques of psychotherapy and
some use techniques of counseling. So lets try to disentangle some
of these elements.
are social creatures, and most of our behavior takes place in a social context.
Accordingly, the science of
studies our socialor collectivebehavior. But each of us, as an
individual, is motivated not just by social rituals but also by mind
and free will. Therefore, if you want to focus on community social
functioning as it is affected by medical care and mental health functioning,
you would study the field of Social
you want to understand how the mind works biologicallythat is, if you
want to understand the mechanics, so to speak, of the nervous systemyou
would study the field of medicine called
or the branch of psychology called
also study the physiology of sensation and perception, and that could
take you into the associated field of
Psychology. Those who take this path usually
end up in academic psychology (also called
Psychology), teaching or conducting research.
This research can be applied to everyday life in an almost infinite variety
of ways. On example would be the application of human factors research
to the design of machines to make them more user
And then, of
course, all this knowledge can be applied clinically.
Psychologya (very) short history
use the phrase the science of behavior as a definition of psychology.
Well, behavior is a very broad concept that can include all sorts
of influences, both rational and irrational. Systematically studied as a
rational science, the study of individual behavior began in the study
of human and animal perception under the influence of such men as Willhelm
Wundt, the founder of modern scientific
practical application of this psychological knowledge began when those
principles of animal and human perception were first applied in the field
of education by Lightner
when he inaugurated the first psychological clinic in 1896; as this
initial practical application of psychology grew, it expanded its clinical
applications to the treatment of various mental health disorders.
clinic derives from the Latin clinicus, a bed-ridden person
or a physician who attends patients sick in bed. A clinic, therefore, is
a place where sick patients are treated. So, in the literal sense,
Psychology is concerned with the work of
treating sick patients. In the broader, contemporary sense, however,
clinical psychology involves teaching about, research about, or treatment
of persons with any of the common mental health disorders. (Today, we understand
that someone with a phobia, for example, is not literally sick in
psychology grew, it became strongly influenced by the treatment principles
which place a large emphasis on unconscious functioning.
Although the whole story is quite complicated, the various forms of clinical
treatment that emerged in the mid-20th century through the associations with,
and reactions against, psychoanalysis resulted in what we now collectively
wondering, What does a psychologist do? see
to Consult a Psychologist for a sampling of the many sorts of treatment
issues in clinical psychology.
degrees associated with clinical psychology are the traditional Ph.D. (Doctor
of Philosophy) which involves training in both clinical treatment and
researchand the newer Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology)which emphasizes
clinical training and minimizes training in research.
a graduate degree in clinical psychology, however, is only part of the story.
If a person wants to provide clinical services (such as psychotherapy) to
the public as an independent practitioner (as opposed to teaching or conducting
research), the person must receive a license. Persons with doctorates
in clinical psychology usually become licensed as
Persons with masters degrees in clinical psychology usually become
licensed as Marriage and Family
Therapists. (See below, under
Is a Doctoral degree
preferable to a Masters degree?
systems prefer to save money by using masters level practitioners rather than
doctoral level practitioners. What, then, is the point of getting
a doctorate, whether it be a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.?
isnt any way to answer that question without offending somebody. So,
I will just tell a story (a true story, mind you) and let people take offense
as they will.
A man was attending
a public event. The man sitting next to him suddenly caught his attention
and said, Im a dermatologist, and I have been biting my tongue, but I
just have to tell you. How long have you had that blemish on your face? You should
have it removed because its skin cancer.
Consequently, the man
went to his managed-care medical office. The masters level physicians
assistant (PA) who examined him looked at the blemish and said, It looks
like a mole to me. Nothing to worry about. The man, however, insisted
that he be seen by a dermatologist. Eventually a dermatologist came into
the room. He looked at the blemish. Yup, skin cancer. When shall we take
So is it really
worth while to take on the educational expense of becoming a doctor? Does this
story have any relevance to psychology? You decide.
The concept of
counseling (in British English it is spelled counselling) has
actually been around for ages, and it reflects the need for one person to
seek out help or advice from another person. Counseling as a professional
occupation, therefore, derives not from the clinic but from more social settings.
It focuses on helping persons resolve problems or role issues related to
work or school or family matters. In this setting, the counselor is a
problem solver who through direct advice or non-directive guidance
helps the client make rational decisions.
Here are some
general characteristics of counseling.
It is concerned
with normal problems rather than mental health
It is concerned
with role functioning, with choices to be made, and with actions to be
It is more concerned
with present events than with past events.
It is more concerned
with conscious, rational thinking than with unconscious
traditionally been associated with the field of education (M.S. or M.S.E.
or Ed.D.), although some counselors may have bachelors or masters
degrees in psychology. In addition, many psychology programs offer degrees,
most usually the Ph.D., in Counseling
Psychology, a branch of psychology specifically concerned with
the practice of counseling. Moreover, many counseling psychologists receive
training in vocational psychology, an aspect of psychology that, through
personal guidance and vocational testing, helps
individuals discover a fulfilling and productive work life.
counseling programs usually teach the various theories of psychotherapy,
training and supervision in the practice of psychotherapy usually
is not part of the education for counseling; accordingly,
psychotherapy is usually not an academic requirement. In general,
whereas psychotherapy tends to involve a complex change in basic character
and often works with
conflicts, counseling tends to be more limited and more concerned with the
immediate situation. Still, many counselors disagree among themselves
about the distinction between counseling and psychotherapy; some training
programs in counseling psychology, for example, may put a large emphasis
A person with
a doctoral degree in counseling may become licensed as a Psychologist;
a person with a masters degree in counseling may, in some states, become
licensed as a Licensed Professional Counselor. (See below, under
Since you might
find persons advertising themselves as providers of coaching, I will
give a brief description of this relatively new practice.
counseling, is meant to help healthy clients, but instead of
helping them solve problems, coaching focuses on helping persons utilize
their abilities more effectively than they have previously. Advertising jargon
would call this achieving your full potential.
Here are some
general characteristics of coaching.
are usually conducted by telephone.
It can focus
on personal work, but it is usually used in business settings with
It tends to help
persons achieve personal and business goals.
training may be needed, no specific degree is required and no license is
needed to practice coaching.
In the U.S.,
all states have licensing laws as a way to guarantee to the consumer a minimal
standard of education and training that must be met by practitioners who
sell their services to the public in independent practice. These laws vary
from state to state, so see below in Additional
Resources for links (categorized by type of practice) to the various
There are many settings,
however, in which a person with any of various degrees might work as a
counselor or psychotherapist without a
Drug and alcohol
counselors and residential treatment counselors who work for large agencies,
or in hospitals, are examples. Many of these persons have only bachelors
degrees. In these cases, counselor is a job title, not a license
to practice independently.
There are some
states in the U.S. in which a person with a masters degree in education
or psychology may practice counseling or psychotherapy without a
A validly ordained
Catholic priest who is actively serving his Ordinary (bishop or provincial)
can practice counseling as a part of his pastoral functions. Some Protestant
ministers and Rabbis can also provide counseling within the context of religious
duties. Also, any one of these persons who has received an advanced degree
in psychology or education and who has received supervised clinical training
in psychotherapy may ethically practice psychotherapy within the pastoral
Many states in the U.S.
allow individuals to practice counseling with a license.
Professional Counselor (LPC). An
individual with a masters or doctoral degree in counseling or a
counseling-related field from an accredited college or university, and who
has acquired the requisite hours of supervised practice, may become licensed
as an LPC in certain states.
Then, there are many different
licenses under which individuals may practice
has an MD degree and is licensed (in California by the
Medical Board of California); by virtue of his or
her license to practice medicine, he or she can perform psychotherapy (or
with the proper training from a psychoanalytic
A psychiatric nurse (RPN), by virtue of his or her license to practice nursing,
can perform psychotherapy (with proper training) in some settings, but not
independently (except for an Advanced Psychiatric Nurse).
Technician. These persons (licensed
in California by the
Board of Vocational Nursing & Psychiatric
Technicians) must practice under supervision in settings such as
hospitals, correctional facilities, and residential care facilities; they
cannot practice independently.
Worker. A person who has a masters
degree in social work (MSW), and who has acquired the requisite hours of
supervised practice, may become licensed as a Licensed Clinical Social
Worker (LCSW) and practice independently as a psychotherapist. In California,
LCSWs are licensed by the
Board of Behavioral Sciences. (Also, in California,
an Associate Clinical Social Worker (ASW) can perform psychotherapy
while working under the supervision of an LCSW in order to accrue supervised
experience before becoming licensed.)
regulations, LCSWs are authorized to employ
psychotherapeutic techniques, among other services, with individuals, couples,
families, and groups to improve the clients quality of life.
(What does quality of life mean? In practice, it can be stretched
to mean anything. So be careful.)
and Family Therapist. There are states,
such as California, in which a person who has received a masters degree
in clinical psychology, and who has acquired the requisite hours of supervised
practice, may become licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist
(MFT)and most MFTs usually call themselves psychotherapists as
well. In California, MFTs are licensed by the
Board of Behavioral Sciences. (Also, in California,
an MFT Intern can perform psychotherapy while working under the
supervision of an MFT in order to accrue supervised experience before becoming
regulations, MFTs are authorized to employ
psychotherapeutic techniques with individuals, couples, families, and groups
to improve the clients interpersonal functions. The intent of
the law was to provide an alternative to psychologists, so that less educated,
and therefore less expensive, service providers might work with
non-psychiatric interpersonal issues. But when everyoneeven
a person with a psychiaric disorderhas interpersonal functions, some
MFTs can stretch the laws to do anything they want. Consequently, because such
practitioners charge less for their services than psychologists, they are routinely
paid to treat psychiatric issues they are not qualitied to treat. And
managed care companies are quite happy to stretch
their profits thereby. So be careful.
occasionally find a psychotherapist who has a Ph.D. degree but only an MFT
license, as in Jane Doe, Ph.D., MFT. Such a case can be deceptive and calls
for caution, for two reasons.
This person might
have a Ph.D. in a field totally unrelated to psychology, such as anthropology,
while the degree allowing the MFT license is only an M.A. in
This person might
have the Ph.D. in psychology but was unwillingor unableto pass
the Psychologist licensing
and so took the easier MFT exam.
Psychologist. The title Psychologist (in the U.S.) is usually
protected by state law; that is, a person with a degree in psychology cant
be called a psychologist unless licensed as a psychologist by
a state. In California, psychologists are licensed by the
Yet when states
license psychologists they generally dont care if the person has a
degree in clinical psychology or counseling psychology or
education. So in most states a person with a psychologist license
can legally do clinical work or counseling work, regardless of training or
type of degree. In California the degree must be a doctorate, but in some
states a person with a masters degree can be licensed as a
both a Registered Psychologist and a Psychological Assistant
are specific forms of registration by which an unlicensed person can perform
limited psychological functions to accrue hours of supervised professional
A registered psychologist can be registered only at a nonprofit community
agency and must possess (a) a doctoral degree which qualifies for psychology
licensure and (b) at least 1500 hours of qualifying supervised professional
A psychological assistant need not have any experience but must have at least
a qualifying masters degree in psychology; a psychological assistant
can be employed and supervised by a licensed psychologist (or a board-certified
psychiatrist) in a private setting.
For more information about registered psychologists and psychological assistants,
see the website of the
of all the confusion described above, it is not at all uncommon for counselors,
psychotherapists, and even psychologists to attempt to treat problems for
which they have not been specificallyor
therefore, you should know (a) what degree, (b) what license
(c) what training, and (d) what sort of personal psychotherapy
your psychotherapist or counselor
You should also
understand that psychotherapy and counseling, because of their different
origins and purposes, have different
In essence, it
means A Big Deception. Well, seriously, it really stands for
All But (the) Dissertation, and it refers to the fact that someone
who is trying to earn a Ph.D. has completed
the coursework but has not yet written the doctoral
dissertationa large piece of original researchthat is required
to complete the degree.
Of course, many
persons have difficulty completing a dissertation, for a variety of reasons,
and its not necessarily a sign of academic failure to be struggling
to complete a degree. Still, an incomplete degree is no degree, and
there can be no respectable reason to pretend otherwise.
some psychotherapists-in-training feel so insecure about having an incomplete
degree that they will make business cards with ABD after their names, to
mislead their clients, as if the ABD were a title. But those three letters,
despite having the appearance of something official, are neither a degree
nor a license.
So, when someone
cannot just accept incompleteness honestly, but feels driven to hide it by
using ABD, then its all a big deception meant to
obscure academic failure.
And that leads
to a chilling thought. When a psychotherapist-in-training is caught up in
unconscious victimization and
entitlement, what chance do his or her clients have
to learn how to live honest lives?
McReynolds, P. (1987). Lightner Witmer: Little-known founder of clinical
psychology. American Psychologist, 42, 849858.
2. Actually, the dissertation
is part of the coursework for a Ph.D., so unless the dissertation has been
completed, the student has not completed all the coursework.
advertisingno sponsorjust the simple truth . . .
Jumping Stand: Biological Psychology
The Coaching & Mentoring Network
American Association of State
National Board of Certified
History of Clinical
in the History of Psychology
in the History of Psychology Witmer (1907) read one
of Witmers papers.
of Psychology Archives
Marriage and Family Therapy
for Marriage and Family Therapy provides information and resources
for marriage and family therapy.
California Board of Behavioral
Sciences oversees licensing of MFTs, LCSWs, and LPCs in
Directory of State MFT Licensing Boards provides
the regulated titles and addresses of state boards regulating marriage and
Academy of Neurology
Association of Pastoral Counseling provides information about pastoral
Board of Vocational
Nursing & Psychiatric Technicians oversees licensing of nurses
Board of Vocational
Nursing & Psychiatric Technicians oversees licensing of psychiatric
technicians in California.
American Psychiatric Association represents all member psychiatrists,
and its site provides extensive information about psychiatry.
The Medical Board of
California oversees licensing of physicians in California.
for the Study of the Psychoanalytic Arts To advance
the study of psychoanalytic epistemology, theory, practice, ethics, and education
within a psychological framework consisting of philosophy, the arts, and
the anthropic sciences as opposed to biology, medicine, and the natural
The American Psychoanalytic
Association represents all member psychoanalysts.
The Lacanian School
of Psychoanalysis in the San Francisco Bay area, offers training
in Lacanian psychoanalysis.
by Wolfgang Albrecht, in Berlin; provides links to pages with information
related to Psychoanalysis.
The San Francisco Psychoanalytic
Institute is a psychoanalytic training institute in San
The San Francisco Society
for Lacanian Studies provides information about training in Lacanian
Lacan Related Papers provides links to numerous
Links provides links to Lacanian sites and is an extensive resource
for Lacanian articles and papers.
of State and Provincial Psychology Boards Roster for U.S.
and Canada. Find your states Board of Psychology to learn its requirements
for licensure as a psychologist.
The California Board
CALIFORNIA BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONS
CALIFORNIA BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONS CODE
2900-2918 the Psychology Licensing Law
California Psychological Association MCEP Accrediting Agency provides
information about continuing education for psychologists in California.
of the American Psychological Association lists the various divisions
of the APA and will give you an idea of the many varied applications of
California Board of
Behavioral Sciences oversees licensing of MFTs, LCSWs, and LPCs
Clinical Social Work Federation,
Inc. is maintained for clinical social workers and those with an
interest in their services.
Related pages within A Guide to Psychology
and its Practice:
Questions and Answers
Reasons to Visit a
To Become a
Types of Psychological
INDEX of all subjects
on this website