top of page
  • Writer's pictureAllison Styffe

You Can Be ABC's: therapists, counselors, and psychologists

This month's ABC's are for our helpers and empaths. The ones who walk alongside people going through hard times. Who are curious about why people do what they do. Who call out their friends when they're making harmful choices. Who could people-watch all day long. Who others come to for advice, comfort, or a shoulder to lean on. Who can see other perspectives and listen without judgement.

If that sounds like you, you might have a future in the world of psychology.

Before we launch into this month's ABC's, all about therapists and counselors and psychologists (oh my!), I'll break down some of the similarities and differences between those three titles real quick, because it can get a little (okay, a lot) confusing...

Let's start with the word therapy. In short, therapy is any treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder. Many counselors and psychologists provide therapy to their clients by treating mental health disorders. Therefore, in essence, many counselors and psychologists are therapists. But not all therapists work in the world of mental health—think of physical therapists, occupational therapists, or speech therapists. These people are providing treatment for other types of challenges. For today's ABC's we'll stick with the therapists who work under the umbrella of psychology and focus more on the mind than the body.

When it comes to mental health workers, the terms counselor and therapist are often interchangeable. Therapists do counseling (i.e. provide guidance in resolving personal, social, or psychological problems and difficulties), and counselors do therapy (i.e. provide treatment for mental disorders). So, in short, don't get too tied up in whether job a title includes one word or the other.

On the other hand, psychologists differ from therapists and counselors in some big ways. The first is education: it takes a master's degree to become a therapist or counselor, but all psychologists need to earn a PhD. More often than counselors/therapists, psychologists will conduct research, perform testing and evaluations, operate as consultants or professors, etc. In other words, while therapists and counselors are almost always working to directly support clients, that's only part of a psychologist's job. In fact, some psychologists don't provide any counseling or therapy at all. Meanwhile, other psychologists will specialize in providing diagnosis and treatment for individuals with more severe cases of mental health disorders. [1]

Clear as mud, right? ;)

Okay then, let's dive in these ABC's already —


A is for Art Therapist

They use the process of self-expression, and the resulting artwork to help clients understand their emotional conflicts, develop social skills, improve self-esteem, manage addictions, reduce anxiety, and restore normal function to their lives. [2]

B is for Behavioral Counselor

In short, they help people change behaviors. More specifically, they often work with individuals who have problems with alcohol, drugs, gambling, eating disorders, or other behavioral challenges. They counsel individuals to help them to identify and shift problem behaviors, usually related to addiction. [2]

C is for Clinical Psychologist

These are the people you probably think of when you picture a psychologist. Clinical psychologists are licensed professionals who are qualified to provide direct services to patients. Their work may include administering and interpreting cognitive and personality tests, diagnosing mental illness, creating treatment plans, and conducting psychotherapy. They often specialize in one or two areas (e.g. depression, autism, addictions) or types of treatment. [3]

D is for Developmental Psychologist

They study how we grow over time, not physically, but mentally and emotionally. How do differences in sensory processing affect complex behaviors? How does empathy develop in children? What is the neural basis for prejudice…or for human bonding? These are questions that a developmental psychologist might consider. [3]

E is for Educational Psychologist

This is one of several specialties focused on youth and education. What conditions contribute to learning? What is the role of motivation? They explore these questions as they relate to different populations and are experts in the science behind how people learn. [3]

F is for Forensic Psychologist

A unique role working within, or aiding, the legal system. The job can entail evaluating competency to stand trial and offering expert witness; the testimony of a psychologist may be given weight in determining what level of crime a person actually committed and what sentencing is appropriate. Forensic psychologists may also offer expertise in issues of personal injury, liability, disability, or guardianship. [3]

G is for Grief Counselor

They help people cope with grief and mourning following the death of loved ones, or with major life changes that trigger feelings of grief, such as divorce. There is a distinction between grief counseling and grief therapy. Counseling involves helping people move through uncomplicated, or normal, grief to health and resolution. Grief therapy involves the use of clinical tools for traumatic or complicated grief reactions. [2]

H is for Health Psychologist

These folks have sure been busy this last year, what with a global pandemic and all! They are experts in exploring the connection between physical and mental states; their approach may be described as biopsychosocial. Among the questions they explore are how psychosocial influences affect the immune system and how psychological and cultural influences promote compliance with health regimes. [3]

I is for Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Where business meets psychology. I/O psychologists apply psychological principles to business and organizational issues. They may do everything from determine suitability for hiring or leadership roles to recommend organizational changes. They may help the organization enhance workforce performance, improve morale, or meet overall objectives. [3]

J is for Juvenile Justice Counselor

They work with people under 18 who have been adjudicated for a crime, helping them to find positive goals and direction in life. Areas of focus often include physical/emotional abuse, substance abuse, anger management, family issues, etc. Sometimes these counselors also handle case management — coordinating services within the community that their clients need access to in order to be successful. [4]

M is for Marriage & Family Therapist

MFT is unique because less emphasis is placed on an identified client or internal psychological conflict. The focus, instead, is on understanding their clients’ interactions within their existing environment, especially relationships within their family. They work to modify perceptions and behaviors, enhance communication and understanding among family members, and help to prevent family and individual crises. [2]

N is for Neuropsychologist

These are the brain experts. They study the brain, its various parts, and how they all work together to produce different human outcomes and experiences. How do lesions to different parts of the brain translate into subtle and not-so-subtle behavioral differences? And how can challenges, from inborn metabolic differences, to brain trauma be overcome? Neuropsychologists make it their life work to explore questions like these. [3]

P is for Prison Counselor

More often referred to as a Corrections Counselor, they provide counseling to prisoners, helping them in their rehabilitation process. A prison counselor may also be responsible for evaluating inmates and preparing reports for parole boards. Counseling in the prison environment can begin from the time a prisoner is admitted to the facility to the time an inmate is released. Counselors play an integral role in helping prisoners readjust as they rejoin society. [4]

R is for Rehabilitation Counselors

A rehabilitation counselor helps people—often those who are disabled or struggle with health conditions—increase their independence and self-efficacy. These counselors focus on goals like employment, transportation, and independent living skills, while providing mental and emotional support. They often work as a team with the client's doctors, physical and occupational therapists, and other care providers. [4]

S is for School Counselor

They work with students at all levels (K-12) to improve social, emotional, and academic experiences. At any given time, they may be meeting with individual students, running a group counseling session, or teaching a classroom lesson. They collaborate with parents, teachers, school administrators, school psychologists, medical professionals, and social workers to develop and implement strategies to help students succeed. [2]

T is for Trauma Counselor

Trauma counseling is a specialist field of counseling which helps people address, come to terms with, and recover from a traumatic event. Trauma counselors are typically involved if someone is struggling physically, emotionally, or psychologically after such an event. [4]

V is for Vocational Counselor

Often referred to as "career counselors" as well, these professionals help guide people toward a fulfilling career. Their clients may include students, recent graduates, people changing careers and first-time job seekers. Through interviewing, testing and questionnaires, vocational counselors are able to help the client choose a position or vocation that will work for them. [4]

W is for Wellness Counselor

Wellness counseling involves a paradigm shift from the pathology intervention model of mental health counseling. In the pathology intervention model, the emphasis is on diagnosing and treating psychological problems. Wellness counseling is more of prevention than intervention model, and involves imparting knowledge of overall good health, integrating physical, social, and spiritual health. [4]

Y is for Youth Counselor

This term could apply to a few different types of counselors, but usually refers to those who specialize in working with 11-21 year olds. Some substance abuse, trauma, social skills, academic underachievement, and family issues. If you're interested in working with even younger populations, Child Psychology might be for you. [4] [1]


What did we miss? Do you know of a therapists, counselor, or psychologist whose title starts with the letters K, L, Q, U, X, or Z? Let us know! And if you're interested in pursuing one of the careers above but aren't sure where to start, click here to set up a meeting with your Baker career/college counselor.





29 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page