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The difference between being a psychologist, psychoanalyst and psychotherapist

The difference between being a psychologist, psychoanalyst and psychotherapist

April 4, 2024

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

There is a long list of doubts about what differences there are between different mental health professionals. Many people ask what is the main difference between a psychologist, a psychotherapist and a psychoanalyst. The answer is not simple, since the objective of all is the same: to try and achieve improvements in the mental health of people.

What differentiates the different mental health professionals?

However, although they all share the same goal, there are important differences that allow to distinguish them . One of them is the focus, that is, the set of studies and methods with which they approach the human psyche and that therefore also marks the base of the therapeutic orientation. But there are other variables to consider. In any case, it should be taken into account that each country has its own legislation that regulates the activity of these professionals, so this text should only be taken as a general introduction.

By the way, we have not included in this post the psychiatrists , since the differences between psychologists and psychiatrists are already explained in another article. You can consult it:

"What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?"


A psychologist has studied the university career of psychology and tries to focus psychological needs or difficulties from a vast understanding of human behavior, as well as mental processes .

Not all psychologists give therapy

It must be clarified that not all psychologists are dedicated to the individualized treatment of their patients . For example, educational psychologists are part of the organizational structure of educational institutions (schools, institutes) and, in addition to dealing with students who may present problems, they also perform functions such as adapting certain school curricula to the needs of some students, manage group needs, advise teachers to improve some pedagogical keys, and so on.

In addition to educational psychologists, we can also find psychologists from organizations, social psychologists, psychologists who are dedicated to research ... All of them perform tasks that go beyond the diagnosis and individualized treatment to their clients.

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

As we see, It is not easy to define a psychologist since there are complex and different branches and specializations . Further. Many psychologists use eclectic approaches and methods. What we can say is that the psychologist handles certain aspects of human behavior, such as thinking, behavior and interpersonal relationships to help another person better understand and solve psychological and relational needs so you can enjoy greater well-being psychological.

Licensed or graduated psychologists are able to offer psychotherapy, perform psychometric tests and carry out treatments to improve the psychological problems of other people, although in some countries such as Spain it will be necessary, in addition to being licensed or graduated, to study specific Masters that enable practice psychotherapy. One of the aspects that differentiates a psychologist from a psychiatrist is that, as we saw in the post dedicated to it, the former do not have the power to prescribe drugs to their patients . Yes, it may be the case that psychologists and psychiatrists work together to treat the same patient, but it will always be the psychiatrist who, if he deems it necessary, will provide medications to patients to regulate some type of mental disorder, while the psychologist will practice psychotherapy or another type of treatment adapted to the needs of the case.

More information: "10 tips to choose a good psychologist"


It is very important to make clear that a psychotherapist must have a specialization in psychotherapy at a private institute, but not everyone who introduces himself as a psychotherapist has necessarily studied psychology . For this reason it must be emphasized that the psychotherapist who is not a psychologist does not adhere to any regulation or legal protection, unlike psychologists and psychiatrists, who must comply with strict rules and legal and deontological conventions.

An ambiguous term

Psychotherapy is the set of knowledge, techniques and methods that psychotherapists use to help their patients discover themselves , and to begin 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 accredited psychiatrists who present themselves as psychotherapists, probably to make explicit that their task is focused on individualized therapy.

Psychotherapists may have received training in several therapeutic approaches, such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Narrative Therapy, hypnosis ... In general, this type of therapies of non-psychotherapists have a more directive style than those used by psychologists , which are based more on self-discovery, giving the patient a greater role.

Another issue you should be careful with is that of the weekend coaches: "Differences between Psychology and Coaching"


The psychoanalyst It is not necessarily a graduate or graduate in psychology, although the usual thing is that they have studies in psychiatry, psychology or even philosophy. The practice of psychoanalysis is not regulated by any law or official body.

The psychoanalyst carries out his studies in the heart of institutes or under the teaching of one or more experienced specialists. To be a psychoanalyst, the apprentice must carry out a personal analysis on his own person for several years, before being able to exercise .

The importance of the unconscious

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

Therefore, one of its theoretical foundations is that human beings do not have a conscious control over many of our memories and thoughts, with whichIt is imperative that we perform a rigorous and profound analysis of our unconscious if we want to solve current psychological problems .

The treatment based on psychoanalysis investigates the relationship between these unconscious aspects that influence our interpersonal relationships and patterns of thought, as well as our behavior and our feelings. In any case, it will always be preferable to have a degree in psychology with a specialization in psychoanalysis at the time of trusting our emotional well-being.

Do not miss this post about the father of psychoanalysis: "Sigmund Freud: life and work of the famous psychoanalyst"

The difference between psychology and psychotherapy (April 2024).

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