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What’s the difference between a psychiatrist, psychologist, and counselor?

Updated: May 2, 2020

I get this question a lot. What is a Counselor? And what’s the difference from a psychologist or psychiatrist?

In Switzerland, counseling is a field which is not yet well known. Counseling has existed in the USA and the U.K. since the 1950’s and is now a widely known and respected practice. However, there is still some confusion between psychiatry, psychology, and counseling.

A psychiatrist in a medical doctor who can diagnose and treat mental illness using a combination of therapy and medication. Often, a psychiatrist will see client issues within a medical framework.

A psychologist is someone with either a doctorate or a master’s degree who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental illness within a psychological framework.

Similar to this, a counselor has a master’s degree and is trained to help those with everyday life issues within a psycho-social framework. Counseling puts importance on the relationship between the client and the counselor, as well as identifying patterns of behavior, emotions, relationships, stress, anxiety, and other issues. The counselor listens to what the client identifies as being a problem and the two work together as a team. Normally, counselors do not work with severe mental illness – this would be better suited for a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

For more information on counseling in Switzerland, you can reference the Swiss Association of Counseling website ( The counseling program which I completed in Switzerland is recognized by this society.

Photo: Pexels

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