What is the difference between a Psychologist, a Psychiatrist, a Psychotherapist, and a School Psychologist?

Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology (Psy.D. or Ph.D.) and are professionally trained to assess, diagnose and treat mental health issues. They have advanced training in counseling, psychotherapy, psychological testing, and the science of behavior change. Psychologists are the only professionals qualified to use certain kinds of psychological tests to assess intelligence, emotional and behavioral problems, and neuropsychological dysfunction. In addition to this degree, he or she must pass professional state examinations, complete one-year of supervised postdoctoral clinical work, and agree to follow ethical codes and standards of practice.
Psychiatrists obtain a degree in medicine (M.D.) and then take at least 4 years of specialized residency training in psychiatry, which generally refers to the study, assessment, and treatment of emotional and behavioral problems. Their treatment of choice is most often pharmacotherapy (medication), often augmented by psychotherapy. Psychiatrists must also pass a state licensing exam and acquire a federal narcotics license and register with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Psychotherapist is a general term often used interchangeably with counselor and therapist. Anyone who treats mental and emotional problems can call him or herself a psychotherapist. These individuals may or may not have special training or a degree, or be registered or regulated. Those who are properly trained and regulated will have an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) or and LCPC (Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor). Licensure as an LPC or LCPC occurs at the state level and requires a master's degree in counseling (M.A.) or a related field, additional supervised clinical experience, and must pass a state licensing exam.
School Psychologists include individuals with Master's degrees (M.A., M.S., M.Ed.), Specialist degrees (Ed.S. or SSP), or a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS). Unlike clinical psychology and counseling psychology, school psychologists do not require a doctoral degree. In 2010, the APA Model Licensure Act Task Force released its policy document known as the Model Act for State Licensure of Psychologists. The general expectations promoted in the model act are that professionals seeking to use the title “psychologist” and to render “psychological services” to be doctoral level psychologists only. However, given the growing credentialing of school psychologists by state boards of education, previous versions of the APA model act included an exemption to this doctoral-only standard.

“The prior version of this Model Act included an exemption for the use of the terms school psychologist or certified school psychologist for all individuals credentialed by the state agency regulating practice in public schools. This version acknowledges the authority of the relevant state education agency to credential individuals to provide school psychological services in settings under their purview and continues to restrict those individuals to practice within those settings. Additionally, the title so conferred, which must include the word “school”, is to be used solely while engaged in employment within those settings.

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prevent (cite relevant state education authority or statutory provisions) from credentialing individuals to provide school psychological services in those settings that are under the purview of the state education agency. Such individuals shall be restricted in their practice and the use of the title so conferred, which must include the word "school", to employment within those settings.”


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