Difference between Clinical and Counseling Psychology

By: | Updated: Nov-23, 2017

Clinical and counseling psychology have distinct similarities. Since practices within these fields often overlap, it can be challenging to distinguish between the two. However, they are far from being interchangeable.

Summary table

Clinical PsychologyCounseling Psychology
Focuses on the assessment, prevention, and treatment of psychiatric problems, along with emotional and behavioral disordersFocuses on maintaining a patient’s personal and interpersonal functioning across different developmental milestones

Theoretical orientation is on behavioral issues and psychoanalytic persuasions

Theoretical orientation is a client-centered approach

Deals with serious mental problems such as psychosisDeals with individuals with minor pathological health problems
Achieves its goals by the use of clinical approaches including psychometric tests, interviews, and hospitalizationAchieves its goals by fostering a collaborative environment
Typically practiced in a healthcare settingTypically practiced in universities, prisons, and communities

Definitions

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Clinical psychology is a branch of psychology that integrates clinical knowledge with science and theory. Primarily focused on promoting a person’s well-being and personal growth, clinical psychology involves psychotherapy and other clinical practices. It is most concerned with assessing, preventing, and treating psychiatric problems, along with emotional and behavioral disorders.

In a nutshell, clinical psychology includes practices typical in a healthcare setting. It involves the use of diagnostic tests and treatment procedures designed to help a patient develop a strong mental and emotional well-being.

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Counseling psychology, on the other hand, is a term derived from consulere, which is a Latin word meaning “advise”. Its focus lies on maintaining personal and interpersonal well-being and functioning across different developmental milestones. It integrates multicultural sensitivity with research, theory, and practice to help strengthen a patient’s ability to cope with stress, resolve conflicts and live a highly functioning life.

Aside from focusing on developmental issues, counseling psychology is also concerned with physical, mental, and emotional disorders. It is most applicable in universities and communities where members greatly need guidance.

Clinical vs Counseling Psychology

So what’s the difference between clinical and counseling psychology?

Firstly, clinical psychology’s primary focus lies in the assessment, prevention, and treatment of psychiatric problems, along with emotional and behavioral disorders. Meanwhile, counseling psychology concentrates on maintaining a patient’s personal and interpersonal functioning across different developmental milestones.

In terms of theoretical orientation, clinical psychology has a strong emphasis on behavioral issues and psychoanalytic persuasions. Its study mainly involves psychodynamic research. Counseling psychology, by contrast, focuses more on client-centered theories that influence cognitive behavior.

Since they greatly vary in focus and theoretical orientation, clinical and counseling psychology also specialize in different psychological conditions. While the former deals with serious mental problems such as psychosis, the latter is mainly concerned with individuals that have minor pathological health problems.

Clinical and counseling psychology also differ in terms of how they achieve their goals. Unlike counseling psychology that seeks to empower a patient by fostering a collaborative environment, clinical psychology requires the use of clinical approaches. These include psychometric tests, interviews, and hospitalization.

Additionally, clinical and counseling psychology vary in terms of work setting. Even though both can be employed in a healthcare facility, clinical psychologists practice more frequently in a hospital setting while counseling psychologists are typically engaged in providing counseling services in universities, prisons, and other communities.

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