Differences Between Counsellor, Psychologist and Psychiatrist

Differences Between
Counsellor, Psychologist and Psychiatrist


Other Names –

Can also be called a Psychotherapist as their study includes life span development, psychological theories, mental health, learning theories and behaviour theories.


To provide support and talk about issues with no judgement and help you find strategies and solutions.

Areas of support

Mental health, Career, Relationships, Grief and Loss, General Issues, Understanding of self and behaviour feelings and thoughts, development

Counsellors Training –

A counsellor’s initial study includes learning high-level communication skills, psychological theories, life span development, learning theories,  behaviour.

Counsellors learn to use this information in a range of support situations such as individual and group therapy sessions, providing referrals and working within a case management framework.

Counsellors may choose to extend their knowledge further in areas such as mental health, career, business, child development, behaviour and relationships.

Some counsellors have higher levels of understanding and training in mental health conditions than others.

Some counsellors can work in all areas depending on their interests and additional training in different areas.

A counsellor may have a Diploma, a Bachelor Degree, Masters or Doctorate in Counselling. Counsellors are required to undertake 25+ hours of additional professional development and training each year.

The level of study eg Diploma or Doctorate can be misleading and does not necessarily provide the knowledge level of a counsellor. Years in practice, additional study and how they relate to people can make a great deal of difference in their ability to support your needs. Skills and knowledge vary greatly between all therapists. It is best to try different counsellors if you do not find one that suits you.

How counsellors can help – Counsellors are client and solution-focused. They may work in conjunction with other therapists such as doctors, psychologist or psychiatrists.

A counsellor will listen to you, they will work to understand you and your world and help you find solutions to your issues. If you want they can help you find underlying issues that may be causing ongoing issues. They can provide deep psychoanalysis to help you understand yourself if this is an area they choose to work with.

They will not diagnose you with a mental health issue however, many counsellors have knowledge of mental health issues and symptoms and can help support you and provide treatment strategies. If any diagnosis or medication is needed a counsellor will refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist or your Gp.

Registration –

Counsellors that are properly trained will be registered by an association such as the Australian Counselling Association. To be registered means they have to meet strict yearly requirements of professional development training and supervision. You can check if a counsellor is registered on the ARCAP Register

Medicare, Mental Health Plans and Health Fund Rebates –

Some counsellors may provide health fund rebates however there are not many health funds that cover counselling, most cover psychology. Counsellors are not currently covered by Medicare or Mental Health Plans as these are for psychologists only for diagnosis of mental health issues.

If you would like to see counsellors and psychotherapists included as allied health professionals and be able to use Medicare or health fund rebates please submit a letter to your local Mp and join us in lobbying for Medicare and health fund rebates for counselling.

Cost – A counsellor will generally cost between $80-$180/hr dependent on skills, areas of expertise and how busy they are and what costs they need to cover in order to practice, eg. registration, insurance, training, supervision, rent, advertising etc


Other Names –

Can also be called a Psychotherapist or counselling psychologist or clinical psychologist depending on their level of qualification.

Aim –

To analyze information and symptoms and make a judgement to diagnose clients with mental health disorders.

Areas of support –

Mental health, personality disorders & development. Psychologists may work with issues such as relationships or grief and loss etc with the main aim of making a diagnosis of a mental health condition such as acute stress disorder, PTSD, Anxiety, depression etc

Psychologists Training –

A psychologist is trained in psychological science. Psychology is the science of behavior and the mind, including conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feelings and thoughts. They learn through the science pathway how to analyze and diagnose. Some areas of training are shared with Counsellors and Psychiatrists to varying levels such as psychological theories, developmental psychology and treatments.

A psychologist usually requires a Bachelor Degree and a Masters Degree to pass the Board of Psychology to become registered. There are also psychologists who study a PhD and become Doctors of Psychology. Some psychologists may study additional subjects such as pharmacy medications so they can provide basic medical treatments to patients.

Registration –

Psychologists must be registered with an association and board such as ACA, PACFA and you can check if a psychologist is registered through the  ARCAP register

Psychologists may not require supervision or professional development depending on who they are registered with. It may mean they are not up to date with new and leading information.

Medicare, Mental Health Plans and Health Fund Rebates –

Most psychologists require a referral from a doctor. Psychologists may allow you to claim Medicare rebates for certain sessions and will also work with you under a Mental Health Plan where you will receive a certain amount of free or low fee sessions per year.

Cost –

A psychologist may charge between $80-$500/session dependent on reason for visit and if reports, tests and diagnosis is required.

All medical records are kept and may be used by law or viewed under a workplace mental health check. An employer can request a health check including mental health and disclosure of diagnosed mental health conditions may be required to be hired or continue employment and may be passed to employers or insurers.


Other Names – Clinical psychiatrist depending on level of education

Aim – To diagnose acute mental health disorders and provide medication and treatment sometimes in a hospital or psychiatric ward.

Areas of support –

Mental health and personality disorders

Psychiatrists Training –

A psychiatrist studies psychology and medicine. Study to become a psychiatrist takes around 8 years or more and they must pass strict medical board exams. Registration for a psychiatrist is very strict as is any medical practitioner.

How psychiatrists can help –

They can diagnose and medicate acute mental health disorders. They usually do very little counselling but may provide strategies to support the condition. A psychiatrist would be required if someone suffered a severe mental health issue and required medication and regular supervision and care. Many psychiatrists work in mental institutions with extreme mental health disorders such as personality disorders, schizophrenia, manically depressed or psychotic disorders.

Registration –

Psychiatrists must be registered under Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)

Medicare, Mental Health Plans and Health Fund Rebates –

A referral from a GP is needed to see a psychiatrist. Medicare may cover some costs depending on your reason for your visits and some health funds may cover psychiatrists appointments depending on the health fund policy.

Cost –

It will cost around $300-$500 to see a Psychiatrist.