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What are the differences between Counsellors, Psychologists, and Psychotherapists?

The terms “counsellor”, “therapist”, “psychotherapist”, and “psychologist” do confuse the mental health industry. Some people use the terms interchangeably, while others seek to draw distinctions between them.

When I googled the terms, the search results showed how a psychotherapist delves into a ‘deeper look’ into the client’s past and a counsellor takes a more solution-focused approach to the client’s present struggles. However, the roles of counsellors and psychotherapists are very much the same. We investigate and explore our clients’ past experiences and guide our clients to see the impact of their past on their present lives.

None of them are protected terms, meaning anyone can call themselves anything. There are professional bodies, such as the Singapore Association for Counselling (SAC), which aim to maintain minimum standards for membership, but it is not mandatory for any practitioner to be a member.

I wrote to SAC for clarification, and below is the response I received:

There are consequences of this beyond standards, and a big one is insurance and company benefits. I once had a client whose company would not pay for his sessions because I am a trained and certified counsellor (based on my Master's Degree) but not a psychotherapist.

Is this a problem that we need to address? Or are things okay as they are?



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