Differences Between Counsellor, Psychologist and Psychiatrist

Differences Between
Counsellor, Psychologist and Psychiatrist


A counsellor studies include learning skills and knowledge in counselling such as high level communication. They study Psychology which is the science of behavior and the mind, including conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feelings and thoughts. They use this learning in a range of commonly used psychology modalities, theories, referrals and working within a case management framework. Counsellors study may extend their knowledge into areas such as mental health, career, business, child development, behaviour and relationships.

Counsellors are client and solution focused. They may work in conjunction with other therapists to help support you.

They will listen to you, they will work to understand you and your world and help you find solutions to your issues, they may seek to find any underlying issues.

They will not diagnose you with a mental health issue but they do have the same knowledge of mental health issues as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Counsellors can help you with anxiety, depression, and other general conditions. They will use the same therapies, strategies and techniques as a psychologist or psychiatrist. They are just not qualified to make a diagnosis or prescribe medication. Treatment by a psychologist or psychiatrist may be required in conjunction with counselling if you need one of these. Keep in mind some counsellors have higher levels of understanding and training in mental health conditions than others.

Some counsellors may choose to work in different areas of counselling, some focus on mental health, some on relationships, some may work on career pathways. Some counsellors can work in all areas depending on their interests and additional training in different areas.

A counsellor may have a Diploma, a Bachelor Degree, Masters or Doctorate in Counselling. Each may have many hours of additional professional development courses and training. A Diploma qualified counsellor may have 10 years of additional professional training and may have more knowledge that a counsellor with a Masters Degree. Skills and knowledge vary greatly between all therapists.

Counsellors are not covered by Medicare and Mental Health Plans.

A counsellor will generally cost between $40-$150/hr dependent on skills and popularity and their choice of what they charge.

A qualified counsellor will be Registered with a professional association. Currently, legally anyone can claim they are a counsellor. It is important to check they hold a current registration with a counselling association. ACA, PACFA, ARCAP are the main associations. To be registered means they have to meet strict yearly requirements of professional development training and supervision.


A psychologist is trained in psychological science as are counsellors and psychiatrists. Psychology is the science of behavior and the mind, including conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feelings and thoughts. They learn the same modalities, theories and techniques as a counsellor and psychiatrist. In addition they learn how to analyze and diagnose mental health conditions and disorders.

A psychologist usually requires a Bachelor Degree and a Masters Degree to pass the Board of Psychology to become registered. There are also psychologists who study a PhD and become Doctors of Psychology. Some psychologists may study additional subjects such as pharmacy medications so they can provide basic medical treatments to patients.

Psychologists will be registered with an association and board such as ACA, PACFA, or ARCAP and will also have professional development and supervision requirements.

Most psychologists require a referral from a GP. Psychologists can claim Medicare rebates for certain sessions and will also work with you under a Mental Health Plan where you will receive a certain amount of free sessions per year.A psychologist may charge between $80-$500/session dependent on reason for visit and if reports, tests and diagnosis is required.

All medical records are kept and can be used by law. An employer can request a health check including mental health and disclosure of diagnosed mental health conditions may be required to be passed on to employers or insurers.


A psychiatrist studies psychology and medicine. They can diagnose and medicate mental health disorders. They usually do very little counselling but may provide strategies to support the condition. A psychiatrist would be required if someone suffered a severe mental health issue and required medication and regular supervision and care. Many psychiatrists work in mental institutions with extreme mental health disorders such as personality disorders, schizophrenia, manically depressed or psychotic disorders.

Study to become a psychiatrist takes around 8 years or more and must pass strict medical board exams. Registration for a psychiatrist is very strict as is any medical practitioner.

A referral from a GP is needed to see a psychiatrist. It will cost around $300-$500 to see a Psychiatrist. Medicare may cover some of this.