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time posted
Aug 08, 2023

Counsellor Vs. Psychologist: What’s The Difference 

There can be confusion when choosing a health professional to help you with your mental health. This confusion can stem from the different names and positions that are available. In Calgary, Canada, there are various mental health professionals you can choose from, depending on your needs.

Understanding the difference between these practitioners provides you with key knowledge to support yourself. If you feel that you might need psychotherapy or mental health support, you could research the different practitioners in your area to find one that matches your requirements.


One of the mental health practitioners you’ll find in your research is a psychologist. Psychologists are specialized mental health professionals working with various mental health conditions and disorders. These conditions may be related to depression, bipolar tendencies, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, and other mental illnesses explained in the Diagnostic and Statistical-5-TR manual (DSM-5-TR). Using the DSM-5-TR, psychologists are able to diagnose various mental health disorders or mental health illnesses. These diagnoses may assist in understanding symptomology and inform intervention and future care. The diagnosis will follow an emotional assessment and series of sessions as a psychologist will need to gain in-depth insight before making a diagnosis. 

Psychologists can also provide comprehensive assessments to support individuals that experience cognitive difficulties or learning difficulties. These assessments are called psychoeducational reports. Psychoeducational reports can assist with providing recommendations for schooling environments, rehabilitation, and further studying. A psychoeducational report often supports individuals with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, traumatic brain injury, and intellectual disabilities. 

If you decide that you would benefit from the services of a psychologist, you can make a booking without a medical referral, which means that you can research different psychologists in your area and choose one.


All psychologists in Alberta need a doctoral degree or a Ph.D. in psychology. This indicates that each psychologist has delved in-depth into the academic and theoretical elements of psychology and therapeutic practice and ensures that the service you receive is of high standard and ethical.

Focus Areas and Specialties

Psychologists may focus on or specialize in specific mental health issues. These specialties include: 

  • Clinical psychologists: A clinical psychologist will often work within hospital settings or in private practice. They will focus on the diagnosis and therapeutic intervention of mental health disorders and mental health conditions. Clinical psychologists often offer long-term therapy for those who need extended care.
  • Educational psychologists: An educational psychologist works primarily with school students to assess, diagnose, and support them. They will support both educational difficulties and mental and emotional disorders.
  • Industrial and Organizational psychologists: An industrial and organizational psychologist will usually work within the workplace environment offering assessment and support regarding career choice, workplace management, and structures.

Registered Clinical Counsellors

A Registered Clinical Counsellor is a mental health practitioner that offers support for various mental health challenges and increases mental health in general. Registered Clinical Counsellors offer therapy in different settings, depending on the client’s mental illness or specific needs. A Registered Clinical Counsellor can assist with social difficulties such as relationship difficulties, workplace stress, etc. They will also support mental health conditions like grief, stress, anxiety, and depression, and help to develop coping and problem-solving skills, etc. Unlike a psychologist, a Registered Clinical Counsellor cannot provide a diagnosis and, therefore, will either work based on the symptomology observed or on a prior diagnosis. If you are working with a Registered Clinical Counsellor and they believe that there is a diagnosis that needs to be made, they can refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist to make the diagnosis.

Since the words ‘counsellor’ and ‘therapist’ are unregulated in Canada, ensuring that you make an appointment with a Registered Clinical Counsellor will provide you with a high-quality and regulated level of service.


A Registered Clinical Counsellor will need to have a master’s degree in some field of psychology. Often Registered Clinical Counsellors train in a wide range of counselling techniques and theories, allowing them to support several types of mental health challenges. They can offer counselling to a wide demographic and tailor their intervention to each client's specific needs.

A Registered Clinical Counsellor in Calgary needs to be registered with The Association of Counselling Therapy of Alberta in order to practice. This registration ensures you receive care from registered and fully trained mental health professionals. 

Focus Areas and Specialties

Registered Clinical Counsellors practice in a variety of environments, including community centres and private practices. 

Their focus is short to medium-term therapy that can be offered to an individual, couple, family, or group. This enhances mental health and facilitates the understanding and development of positive coping strategies for various mental health challenges.

A Registered Clinical Counsellor may cater to a wide range of mental health issues and support, or they may specialize. When looking for a Registered Clinical Counsellor, you can ask if they cater to your specific needs.

Additional Types of Mental Health Professionals

Another type of mental health professional that you can see is a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor specializing in mental illnesses, mental disorders, and mental health. You usually need a referral from your family doctor or mental health practitioner to see a psychiatrist.

Psychiatrists do not usually offer therapy; they offer pharmacological support, as they are the only mental health practitioner who can prescribe medication. Psychiatrists can also diagnose mental health conditions, and they will also interpret them according to the DSM-5-TR.

A Clinical Social Worker is an option that may come up in your search for mental health practitioners. Clinical Social Workers often work with families and couples, individuals with workplace difficulties, and anyone affected by substance abuse. They offer short-term counselling and support. If they feel that further support is needed, they will refer you to the correct practitioner or organization. 

Finding a Counsellor or Psychologist in Calgary

If you need the services of a psychologist or Registered Clinical Counsellor in Calgary, you can reach out to One Life Counselling and Coaching to book an appointment. 

Taking action to support your mental health is a commendable thing. You don’t need to feel distressed on your own—you can be supported in a variety of ways by a mental health professional. This support can enhance your quality of life and give you more joy in your daily life.

I am the founder of One Life Counselling and Coaching LTD and I am honored to lead a team of professional psychologists, psychotherapist’s and life coaches who dedicate their professional lives to helping people to elevate their mindsets, evolve their beliefs and learn to thrive in the present moment.
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