The difference between being a psychologist, psychoanalyst and psychotherapist

A common question: What are the differences between different mental health professionals?

There is a long list of doubts about the differences between different mental health professionals. Many people wonder what is the main difference between a psychologist, a psychotherapist and a psychoanalyst. The answer is not easy, because everyone’s goal is the same: to treat and improve people’s mental health.

What makes different mental health professionals different?

However, although they all share the same goal, if there are any significant differences that distinguish. One of them is the approach, that is, the set of studies and methods with which they approach the human psyche and which therefore also marks the basis of therapeutic orientation. But there are other variables to consider. However, it should not be forgotten that each country has its own legislation governing the activity of these professionals, so this text should only be considered as a general introduction.

Besides, we did not include psychiatrists in this article, Since the differences between psychologists and psychiatrists and we explain them in another article. You can consult:

  • “What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?”


A psychologist studied the university degree in psychology and seeks to address psychological needs or difficulties from a broad understanding of human behavior as well as mental processes.

Not all psychologists give therapy

It should be noted that not all psychologists are committed to the individualized treatment of their patients. For example, educational psychologists are part of the organization chart of educational institutions (schools, institutes) and, in addition to caring for students who may have problems, they also perform functions such as adapting certain programs. school to the needs of certain students. , manage the needs of the group, advise teachers to improve certain pedagogical keys, etc.

In addition to educational psychologists, one can also find organizational psychologists, social psychologists, psychologists who are dedicated to research … They all perform tasks that go beyond diagnosis and individualized treatment. of their customers.

It is not easy to define a psychologist because there are many specializations

As one can see, it is not easy to define a psychologist because there are complex and different branches and specializations. Outraged. many psychologists use eclectic approaches and methods. What we can say is that the psychologist uses certain aspects of human behavior, such as thinking, behavior and interpersonal relationships to help another person better understand and meet psychological and relationship needs so that they can enjoy greater psychological well-being.

Licensed or graduated psychologists are able to offer psychotherapy, perform psychometric tests and perform treatments to improve the psychological problems of other people, although in some countries like Spain it will be necessary, in more than being licensed or graduated, to study specific masters. that allow them to practice psychotherapy. One of the things that differentiates a psychologist from a psychiatrist is that, as we saw in the article devoted to this, the former do not have the power to prescribe drugs to their patients. Yes, there may be psychologists and psychiatrists working together to treat the same patient, but it will always be the psychiatrist who, if he deems it necessary, will provide medication to the patients to sort out some sort of mental disorder, while the psychologist will practice psychotherapy or other treatment adapted to the needs of the case.

  • More information: “10 tips for choosing a good psychologist”


It is very important to specify it a psychotherapist must have a specialization in psychotherapy studied at a private institute, but not everyone who presents themselves as a psychotherapist has necessarily pursued a degree in psychology. For this reason, it should be emphasized that the psychotherapist who is not a psychologist does not adhere to any legal regulations or protection, unlike psychologists and psychiatrists, who must comply with strict legal and ethical rules and conventions.

An ambiguous term

Psychotherapy is all the knowledge, techniques and methods that psychotherapists use to help their patients discover themselves, And to initiate a process of cognitive restructuring and habits to improve their quality of life and their interpersonal relationships. In fact, there are many psychologists and even certified psychiatrists who present themselves as psychotherapists, probably to make it clear that their work is focused on individualized therapy.

Psychotherapists may have received training in various therapeutic approaches, such as neurolinguistic programming (NLP), narrative therapy, hypnosis … As a rule, this type of therapy for non-psychotherapists has a more managerial style than those used. Psychologists, who rely more on self-discovery, which gives the patient greater importance.

  • Another problem you need to watch out for is weekend coaches: “Differences between psychology and coaching”


the psychoanalyst he is not necessarily a graduate or graduate in psychology, although it is customary for them to have studies in psychiatry, psychology or even philosophy. Nor is the practice of psychoanalysis regulated by any law or official body.

The psychoanalyst carries out his studies within institutes or under the teaching of one or more experienced specialists. To be a psychoanalyst, the learner must carry out a personal analysis on himself for several years, before being able to realize.

The importance of the unconscious

The technical and methodological approach used by the psychoanalyst is analysis, usually with the patient lying on the sofa or in an armchair in front of the therapist. The main difference with other therapeutic approaches is that psychoanalysis works with the unconscious of the individual.

Therefore, one of its theoretical foundations is that humans do not have conscious control over many of our memories and thoughts, so andIt is essential that we perform a rigorous and in-depth analysis of our subconscious if we are to solve current psychological problems..

Psychoanalysis-based treatment studies the relationship between those unconscious aspects that influence our interpersonal relationships and thought patterns, as well as our behavior and feelings. In any case, it will always be better to have a psychology graduate with a specialization in psychoanalysis when it comes to entrusting our emotional well-being.

  • Do not miss this article on the father of psychoanalysis: “Sigmund Freud: life and work of the famous psychoanalyst”

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