Find Your Degree is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

What is the Difference Between Psychology and Counseling Psychology?

what-is-the-difference-between-psychology-and-counseling-psychologyThe difference between psychology and counseling psychology lies in their functional purposes. Read below to learn about the major differences between these two fields.


Psychology is actually made up of dozens of different sub-fields. This includes standard specializations, such as educational and developmental psychology, and exclusive specializations, such as consumer and environmental psychology.

Any clinical psychologist who works one-on-one with clients will have a doctoral degree. University mental health programs are very competitive and focus on research, statistics and psychometric assessments. While a psychologist spends a lot of time in the field, they spend an equal amount of time perfecting their dissertation and performing research.

Clinical psychologists assess and treat people with various psychological problems. Clinical psychologists will receive more training on psychopathology and how to treat serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. Some specialize in psychological crises, such as bereavement, and others focus on chronic psychiatric disorders. Others are considered generalists who work with a wide range of clients, such as children, students and older adults. Psychologists mostly work in hospitals, private practice or community health centers. Most clinical psychology programs follow a curriculum that aligns with the American Psychological Association’s practice standards and education guidelines.

Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychologists typically have master’s degree, but these programs tend to be longer than other fields. Certain counseling specialties, such as school or career counseling, only require 48 semesters hours. However, most mental health counseling programs require 60 semester hours. As mentioned above, a clinical psychologist will most likely work with serious mental illnesses, but a counselor will mostly like work with various adjustment problems. Thus, counselors must study topics related to social, personality, developmental and cross-culture psychology.

Resource: Top 30 Affordable Online Psychology Degree Programs

During school, counseling psychologists study statistics and psychometrics, but they focus more on applied research and best counseling practices. Many mental health counseling degree programs will touch on psychopathology and assessments. There is less quantitative work and more qualitative work to help people improve the quality of their lives. Counseling psychologists do many similar things as clinical psychologists, but they simply focus on real-world and adjustment problems. Counseling psychologists are employed in private, academic and health care organizations. Counseling programs follow curriculum standards set by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Job Differences

Clinical psychologists must evaluate, identify and treat various psychological problems through interviews and diagnostic assessments. In fact, a clinical psychologist’s primary job task is to administer a wide range of tests to one-time patients, such as IQ, emotional or neurological tests. On the other hand, most states limit what kind of psychometric tests counselors can perform. Sometimes they work under the supervision of a psychologist.

A counseling psychologist will spend most of their time working with short- and long-term clients to help them deal with their problems. They help patients identify and understand their personal problems, such as social anxiety or anger management issues. They carefully follow counseling guidelines to help their patients find appropriate solutions for their problems. Counselors tend to specialize in a distinct field, such as social work, family therapy, substance abuse or behavioral disorders.

In closing, the primary difference between psychology and counseling psychology is that the former involves quantitative research and evaluation while the latter involves one-on-one therapy.