What is the difference between a clinical psychologist, a general psychologist and a psychiatrist?
Marie Bloomfield, Clinical Psychologist, Gold Coast, explains the difference between a clinical psychologist, a general psychologist and a psychiatrist in Australia.
There are many types of therapy or counselling in the Gold Coast or Online, and it can be difficult to understand the difference to identify which profession is right for you. Please be aware that not all providers are regulated so do ensure that you check that the person you are seeing is registered with a professional body or regulator. There is a wide range in the complexity and length of training in different therapeutic professions, so if in doubt, ask your therapist what their training involved.
Clinical Psychologist and General Psychologist
General psychology is the study of behaviours and psychological functions, whereas clinical psychology consists of additional studies on mental health to make assessment, intervention and treatment using evidenced-based approaches.
All psychologists in Australia are required to have general registration with the Psychology Board of Australia, and meet high standards in education, training, supervised practice, ethical professional practice, as well as receive ongoing professional development and peer consultation.
You can be referred or seek to see a psychologist with general registration, or one who also has a specific 'area of practice endorsement' such as clinical psychology. A psychologist with an area of practice endorsement has additional university qualifications and supervised training in that specific area.
Typically, Clinical psychologists provide a greater range of services because of their more extensive training. They also provide effective mode of treatments being evidenced based that are likely to achieve positive results.
Different Medicare rebates
Medicare provides a larger rebate for Clinical Psychologist than General Psychologist
If you have a referral from your GP to see a psychologist, Medicare will pay more money for a clinical psychologist, that is $124.50 versus $85.00 for a general psychologist.
General Psychologists charge similar fees as a Clinical Psychologist and therefore there is a larger gap fee to pay after the Medicare rebate if you see a General Psychologist rather than a Clinical Psychologist.
What is the difference between Clinical Psychologist and General Psychologist?
All psychologists seek to understand the human mind and can help you with mental health issues, however, a clinical psychologist has received additional formal training to do so.
The difference between a clinical psychologist and general psychologist is in their training pathways. The clinical psychologist has received additional tertiary qualifications and additional clinical training on the job. The clinical psychologist has a Masters or Doctorate degree with 2 years of full-time supervised clinical work. The general psychologist would have followed 4+2 pathways which means they have done an undergraduate degree in psychology and have received two years on the job training.
(1) Training pathway: Clinical psychologists require postgraduate education (Mpsych, Dpsych or PhD with practical components), followed by a board-approved registrar program.
(2) Possible additional areas of specialisations such as forensic or neuro-psychology: Clinical psychologists have specialised training in their area of practice. They are experts in their respective field(s).
(3) Funding: As mentioned previously, clinical psychologists are entitled to a higher Medicare rebate, compared to other psychologists. Furthermore, some government agency (e.g. Centrelink, department of human services) demand specialist supporting evidence only from clinical psychologists.
The purpose of clinical psychologists is to use evidence-based methods and principles of psychology to treat those who are suffering from psychological issues or problems. Clinical psychologists have the experience and background to conduct psychological tests, research, diagnosis, consultation and treatment. The objective of a clinical psychologist is to consult with the client to explore an evidenced-based intervention and treatment that will improve the mental well-being of their clients. There is a significant overlap between the actual day-to-day function of general and clinical psychologists which explains the confusion.
Clinical Psychologists have received training in several approaches into depth, which enable them to be flexible about the strategies used and adapt to the needs of their clients. Clinical Psychologists usually have a background working in mental health services and consequently are competent to work with more complex problems including clinical depression, psychosis and PTSD as well as problems such as stress and relationship difficulties.
Difference between psychologists and psychiatrists
Many people are also confused about the differences between psychiatrists and psychologists.
Psychiatrists have received different training having started with medical studies to become a medical doctor. Once they have graduated their medical course, they can choose to study to become a psychiatrist. When they study psychiatry, they learn to diagnose, treat mental, emotional and behavioural disorders. A psychiatrist can prescribe medications for mental health issues and also can admit clients to a hospital if it is required.
Both psychologist and psychiatrist are trained to understand how the brain works. Both psychologists and psychiatrists use various forms of therapy to help with problems like depression, anxiety, stress, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, drug and alcohol addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder. They can help to develop better ways of thinking and behaving. Because psychiatrists are the only one who can prescribe medication, which psychologists can’t do, they tend to look after people who have a more severe mental illness, who need are in needs of medication.
Referral and assessment
Your doctor can refer you to a psychiatrist or a psychologist, who will talk to you about your problems. You can also see both a psychiatrist and a psychologist without a referral, but if you do, Medicare will not cover any of the costs. Some private health insurance covers some costs of a psychiatrist or psychologist. If you have private health insurance, speak to them about what is covered.
Medicare covers some or all of the costs of seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist if you have obtained prior to your appointment a referral or a Mental Health Plan from your GP. If the psychologist or psychiatrist bulk-bill there will be no extra charge for you. As we have explained earlier Medicare will provide a higher rebate for seeing a clinical psychologist than a general psychologist.
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