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Difference between Clinical and Counselling Psychology? Which one do I chose to study?

Updated: Feb 8

A question that is often floating around the internet is the big question of what on earth is the difference between Clinical and Counselling Psychology? Are they the same? Are they different?

The short answer is not much is different but that’s probably not the answer you are looking for if you’re here so here is the long answer…

When I was also looking for answers to this question before embarking on my training, I remember once reading that if you were to follow a counselling psychologist and a clinical psychologist around for the day to try and determine the difference within their day-to-day role you probably wouldn’t find much of a difference. The differences really lie within the training and the theory behind their practices, both of which may influence your decision of which path to take.

Let’s start with Counselling Psychology which is the Doctoral training I am currently undertaking. Counselling Psychology is influenced by the Humanistic approach and regards the therapeutic relationship between the Psychologist and client or patient as highly important. The Counselling Psychology training holds more emphasis on Person- Centred modalities of therapy whereas Clinical Psychology training has a neuropsychology element as well as more of a focus on the medical model.

Clinical Psychology training may also focus on more serious client presentations compared to Counselling Psychology, however, when it comes to practicing, they are both qualified to the same level in order to see the same patients/ client presentations, however, Clinical Psychologists may personally favour treating more serious presentations compared to Counselling Psychologists due to their experience and training, but this is not always the case.

A key difference between both Clinical and Counselling Doctoral Training courses is the fees.

Clinical Psychology is funded in the UK therefore, trainees receive a salary during their training, however, this ultimately makes the course more competitive to get onto in the first place. Counselling Psychology training is also highly competitive to get onto, however, it is not funded, and trainees do not receive a salary unless they are able to find a paid placement. For the course fees you do have the option to apply for a post graduate student loan, the cost in the UK for the course is roughly £9,000 a year (full time – 3 years).

A personal difference I have noticed which does not seem to be widely documented online but may affect your choice of course, is the workload difference on the training. Undoubtably both Doctorates are Doctorates at the end of the day and are highly demanding, however, from personal conversations with colleagues who are completing their clinical psychology course, the demands on clinical seem to be higher than on the Counselling Doctorate, this could be due to the funding element for Clinical, therefore, perhaps more work or placement days is required of the trainees? (this is not a fact just my observations and assumptions).

Overall, both Clinical and Counselling Psychologists are required to obtain an Undergraduate degree in Psychology as well as a Professional Doctoral Degree in either Counselling Psychology or Clinical Psychology, following this they are both eligible to apply for HCPC (Health and Care Professionals Council) accreditation in order to see clients. They are both qualified to provide therapy within different modalities, carry out psychometric tests, provide mental health diagnosis’ and carry out research. Neither Clinical nor Counselling Psychologists are able to prescribe medication. The differences really lie within the training programmes, funding for training, theoretical approaches and academic specialties.

* For more information on Counselling Psychology & Differences between Clinical and Counselling Psychology I found this book really useful before my Doctoral Interview- Counselling Psychology A Textbook for Study and Practice - David Murphy


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