Psychologist vs. Therapist

UofL Health Psychologist vs Therapist

Therapists and Qualified Mental Health Professionals

A therapist can be a variety of trained mental health professionals who are often licensed to provide support and guidance for behavioral health conditions. Behavioral health includes both mental illness and substance use disorders. Therapists have at least a master’s degree and can include marriage and family therapists, social workers, professional counselors, and alcohol and drug counselors among many other specialties. They work with their patients in decision-making and navigating emotions and stressful times.  Qualified mental health professionals are independently licensed therapists that can provide behavioral health diagnoses and treatment for mild symptoms related to things such as stress or behavioral concerns to more significant symptoms including mental illness and substance use disorders.

Find Your Peace Podcast – Episode 1: What is Mental Health?

Psychologist:

A psychologist can be referred to as a therapist, but not all therapists are psychologists. Psychologists have attended graduate school and have earned a doctoral degree, which is required by the American Psychological Association (APA). They can also conduct can provide academic-based clinical research, develop programs and provide psychological assessments in addition to therapy for behavioral health conditions. Psychologists are also qualified mental health professionals.

Qualified mental health professionals, including psychologists and other master’s degree trained therapists, can provide a mental health diagnosis and treatment and must be credentialed by a state regulatory board. In Kentucky, neither psychologists nor therapists prescribe medication to patients. A medical doctor, such as a psychiatrist, or advanced practice nurse practitioner or physician assistant, can prescribe medication for behavioral health conditions if needed. Qualified mental health professionals can be a great resource for behavioral health and overall well-being.

How to Find a Therapist

  • Explore local resources
  • Consider personal goals
    • Think about what you want to accomplish in therapy and keep communicating with your qualified mental health professional. It’s OK if your goals change along the way. Your therapist is here to support and provide guidance through these changes.
  • Research and ask questions
    • Look for their professional bio including their educational experiences along with licensing. During your first session, ask questions to make sure this relationship will be aligned with the type of support you need. Some examples of questions to ask include:
      • How long have you been practicing?
      • Do you have experience with ___? Can be a specific type of trauma or cultural experience.
      • Do you accept insurance and which one?
      • Are telehealth services available?

Remember that finding a therapist is similar to finding a primary care provider. You want to find someone you connect with and trust so that you get the most out of your experience. You want to feel confident that any questions or concerns you may have will be addressed and answered in a timely manner. It’s OK if your first choice isn’t exactly what you had hoped. The key takeaway is to keep trying and you will eventually find the right fit.

If you have more questions about managing your behavioral or mental health, consider speaking to your primary care physician or contacting UofL Health – Peace Hospital. Peace Hospital has an Assessment and Referral Center that offers a no-charge assessment, call 502-451-3333 for more information. You can also contact the 24-hour Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Elizabeth W. McKune, Ed.D.

Elizabeth W. McKune, Ed.D., is a psychologist who serves as the chief operating officer (COO) and vice president at UofL Health – Peace Hospital.

All posts by Elizabeth W. McKune, Ed.D.
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