Psychiatry, psychology, counselling and psychotherapy are often confused, it is something people often ask me about. I thought it might be helpful to use this page to go into definitions and give a brief overview.


In short, Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health problems and are trained to deal with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders. The majority are not psychotherapists or counsellors, unless they have done additional training or chosen psychotherapy as a specialism. They can prescribe drugs, and have the power to section someone if they feel they are at serious risk. Their diagnosis is based on the DSM V or ICD 10,  diagnostic manuals for psychiatric disorders. 

Psychology & Psychologists

A Psychologist is a professional who is interested in how people think, how they act, react and interact. There are a huge number of specializations for psychologists, ranging from medical to business, media etc. They can offer counselling with the relevant additional training usually under the governance of the BPS (British Psychological Society). Clinical psychologists and counselling psychologists fall into the latter category.

Counselling & Psychotherapy

This is a specific training and not to be confused with academic psychology, there are in the main two organisations that oversee the training of dedicated therapists, the BACP and UKCP. Formal training courses are usually accredited by these organisations. Once a student has passed and has enough experience they can apply for accreditation of the BACP, or register with the UKCP. 

A question sometimes asked is what is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy. For me, there are many similarities between these which often overlap. Counselling can be issue specific, such as a specific trauma or bereavement, however one can often lead to the other. Perhaps the most important distinction is that a psychotherapist usually has had longer basic training that a counsellor, and can work with a wider range of clients/patients. Psychotherapy is often considered to take longer and go deeper. Many counselling courses are two years in length, my core training was five years and I am constantly adding to it. The UKCP is more concerned with training psychotherapists as opposed to counsellors which is why I am a registrant.