You are going through a difficult period in your life and decide that you may benefit from a little extra support. Hence, you consult with trusty Google for psychologists in your area. Your search reveals clinical and counselling psychologists. So how do you choose between the psychologists based merely on their professional category?
Many people will opt for a clinical psychologist based on little more than the association made by the words ‘clinical’ and ‘counselling’. They may not be familiar with the professional scope of these two categories nor the similarities and differences. Grounded in this, are misconceptions relating to counselling psychology or psychologists. Below are four of the most common such misconceptions.
1. Clinical psychologists are more knowledgeable compared to counselling psychologists. In actuality, many clinical and counselling psychology students, in South Africa, undergo the same theoretical masters training regardless of their category.
2. Counselling psychologists are counsellors. Yes, counselling (and clinical) psychologists counsel people however they are also able to facilitate short and long term psychotherapy as well as deal with issues which have had a greater effect on everyday functioning. This is a means of distinguishing counselling psychologists from counsellors or registered counsellors.
3. Counselling psychologists are not as skilled, in psychotherapy, as clinical psychologists. Therapeutical skills are more related to the individual psychologist and the paradigm she or he chooses to practice in rather than their professional category. It is advisable to find a psychologist that you feel “fits” with you. This may take a couple of tries however it is important to remember that a therapeutic relationship is pivotal for therapeutic effectiveness. This relationship may take a couple of sessions to develop; just like any other relationship. There are distinctions among clinical and counselling psychology categories however expertise is not a qualifier.
4. Individuals become counselling psychologists because they were unable to get into a clinical psychology masters training programme. This cannot be further from the truth. A big differentiator between counselling and clinical psychology is the approach to treatment. Counselling psychologists generally follow a humanistic approach to treatment with a solution focus on the well-being of the individual and on adjustment issues to daily life. This is contrasted to clinical psychology which follows a medical model approach to treatment with an interest in psychopathology and diagnosis. However, not all clinical psychologists adhere to the medical model as some embody a different approach in their therapeutic practice.
I hope that this helps to clarify some of the major misconceptions you may have regarding counselling psychology. This may not make it easier for you to choose a psychologist from a basic Google search though. The best means of selecting a psychologist is by speaking to other people and finding out about their experiences and who they would recommend. However, at times, it may be a matter of trial and error.