Counselor or Psychologist

by Lorin Bradbury

Question: I am interesting in doing counseling, and I was wondering if I became a psychologist if I could do counseling?
Answer: If you are interested in a career in the counseling field, you will have to invest the number of years required to become a psychologist. If you decide to pursue licensure as a psychologist, you should plan on approximately ten years from the time you begin college until you receive a doctoral degree. Then you will need at least one year of residency or post-doctoral supervised experience plus passing the State licensure examinations.
So if your goal is to become a counselor, you might consider obtaining a Master’s Degree in counseling or social work. Both of those disciplines require some form of practicum or internship plus passing the licensing exam. However, the length of time required to achieve those goals is significantly less than the time required to become a psychologist.
Licensure as a psychologist has advantages in employment and practice opportunities. For example, you may want to do counseling now, but as the years go by you may discover that your interests change. When I began the pursuit of a Ph.D. in psychology, I was interested in marriage counseling. However, today I practice both clinical and forensic psychology. That would not have been possible if I had not pursued licensure as a psychologist.
The one feature that distinguishes psychologists from other mental health professionals is their training in the area of administering and interpreting psychological tests. Because of this special training, psychologists are often called upon by physicians, attorneys, counselors, and other mental health professionals to assist in defining diagnoses by means of psychological tests.
Psychologists, like physicians, are more and more seeking credentials as specialists. In addition to licensure as a psychologist, many psychologists seek credentialing in specialty areas. Some of the specialty areas include Clinical, Clinical Health, Counseling, Clinical Neuropsychology, Forensic, Child and Adolescent, Couple and Family, Group, Organizational and Business, Psychoanalysis, Rehabilitation, and School Psychology. I expect that as the years go by even more specialties will be added. I will attempt to describe some, but not all, of the various specialties below.
CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY: Clinical psychologists assess and treat people with psychological problems. They may act as therapists for people experiencing normal psychological crises or for individuals suffering from chronic psychiatric disorders. Also, clinical psychologists may administer tests to clarify diagnoses and assist with treatment planning.
COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY: Counseling psychologists do many of the same things that clinical psychologists do. However, counseling psychologists tend to focus more on persons with adjustment problems rather than on persons suffering from severe psychological disorders. They often provide career counseling in university settings.
FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY: Forensic psychologists work with psycholegal issues. They may be called upon by attorneys and judges to assess competency to stand trial, mental status at the time of an offense, civil guardianship, risk assessment, or to answer other psycholegal questions.
HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY: Health psychologists are concerned with the promotion and maintenance of good health and the prevention and treatment of illness. They may design and conduct programs to help individuals stop smoking, lose weight, manage stress, and stay physically fit. They are employed in hospitals, medical schools, rehabilitation centers, public health agencies, academic settings, and private practice.
INDUSTRIAL/ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY (ORGANIZATIONAL AND BUSINESS PSYCHOLOGY): Industrial/organizational psychologists are primarily concerned with the relationships between people and their work environments. They may develop new ways to increase productivity or be involved in personnel selection. They are employed in business, government agencies, and academic settings.
SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGY: School psychologists typically assess children’s psychoeducational abilities and recommend ways to facilitate student learning. They typically work in public school systems. They often act as consultants to parents, teachers, and administrators to optimize the learning environments of specific students.
NEUROPSYCHOLOGY: Neuropsychologists generally perform testing to assess brain-behavior relationships. They are often called upon to assess the degree of impairment following a head injury resulting in an insult to the brain. Neuropsychologists often work in the forensic realm and are called upon by attorneys in the event of lawsuits related to head injuries.
FAMILY PSYCHOLOGY: Family psychologists typically work with couples and families. In addition to therapy with families, they may administer tests to assess compatibility and develop treatment plans.
In addition to direct service to clients, many psychologists work in university settings, teaching and doing research. Other interesting specialties besides those listed above include experimental psychology, developmental psychology, educational psychology, and social psychology.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected].