Should I Become a Counselor or Psychologist?

Dr. Lorin Bradbury, author of "Treasures from an Old Book, Ancient Wisdom for a Modern World".

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: I am going into my senior year of college, and I am planning to go to graduate school in one of the mental health fields, such as counseling or psychology. Do you have any suggestions as to the benefit of becoming a psychologist, rather than a counselor or social worker?

Answer: It’s very likely my response is biased toward psychology, so if you are a counselor, social worker, or marriage and family therapist, please don’t take offense at my response to this question. Personally, I am glad I earned a degree in psychology and obtained a license as a psychologist. I believe it has allowed me greater degrees of freedom as my career in psychology evolved from a strong interest in marriage and family to clinical psychology to what I currently practice—forensic psychology. Had I settled for a doctorate in counseling or marriage and family therapy, I would not have been able to expand to psychological testing and eventually providing forensic psychological services.

If you are certain that you want to provide psychotherapy, either individual or group, and you have no interest in psychological testing, then you may want to pursue a master’s degree or doctoral degree in counseling or social work. If your interest is marriage and family therapy, then you may want to obtain a master’s degree or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy, or counseling, or social work. But if you want greater degrees of freedom as your interests develop across your lifespan, you might want to earn a doctorate in psychology. A psychologist is trained to provide psychotherapy, perform psychological testing, and with specialized training, provide psycholegal answers as a forensic psychologist.

Let me add one other suggestion. Be sure the school you obtain an advanced degree from is license eligible in the field you plan to practice. When I was a member of the Board of Psychology and Psychological Associate Examiners, it was heartrending to inform someone after they had spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours earning a doctoral degree that the degree was not license eligible.

Best Wishes!

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].

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