Clinical vs. Counseling Psychology: What's the Difference?


Clinical vs. Counseling Psychology: What's the Difference?

Photo : Clinical vs. Counseling Psychology: What's the Difference?

Psychology is a lucrative and interesting field that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, will see a growth of 14 percent by 2028. 

Scanning the American Psychological Association website, it becomes clear that there are many different branches of psychology, but the ones to which we refer most often are clinical psychology and counseling psychology.

What is Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology, according to the definition found on the APA website, is "continual and comprehensive mental and behavioral health for individuals and families; consultation to agencies and communities; training, education and supervision; and research-based practice." 

It has a broad scope, and it is inclusive of other disciplines both inside and outside the realm of psychology to address the particular psychopathological need of the client.

What is Counseling Psychology

Again, from the APA website, counseling psychology " focuses on how people function both personally and in their relationships at all ages." 

It looks at concerns people have regarding stress, anxiety, learning disabilities, autism, and other issues. These professionals also provide psychological assessments and evaluations, make diagnoses and provide direct treatment.

How they Originated

Both branches of psychology evolved during the late 19th century. The word "evolved" is appropriate because psychology has existed since the time of the early Greeks. It was viewed as an outcropping of philosophy but became a distinct science in the 1860s.

The First Clinicians

The first emphases of the discipline were in experimental psychology, and many differing views arose. Eventually, the idea of applying the theories emerged. 

The first psychologists worked in clinics that offered assessment and treatment of things such as learning difficulties and mental illness. Psychologists began to offer psychotherapy, which was a field formerly only approached by psychiatrists.

Counseling Psychology Emerges

During this era, industrialization was changing society. People wanted to know what professions or jobs were suited to them, employers wanted to know what character traits made good employees and everyone wanted to know what constitutes a good workplace environment. 

This was the time of workplace reformation. Children were among those in the workforce who labored long hours in dangerous conditions. Psychology, especially counseling psychology, played a big role in changing the face of labor conditions.

Word Origins

A quick trick to keep the branches of psychology separate is to look at the origins of the terms clinical and counseling. The word "clinical" comes from an ancient Greek word "kline" which means to lie down. 

It refers to the treatment of sick people, in other words, bedside practice. Clinical psychologists treat people with psychopathologies. Counseling comes from the Latin "counsulere," which means to advise. This especially applied to vocational counselors.

World War II

After WWII, returning veterans struggled with many issues. Clinical psychologists addressed their psychological needs, such as PTSD. 

Counseling psychologists were more involved in helping them readjust to society by helping with employment and housing, among other things. The two branches became more specialized.

Interestingly, today the fields are growing closer again. There is much overlap in their practice, and the educational programs are similar. The main difference seems to be that clinical psychology stresses psychopathology and training while counseling psychology is holistic and includes many other disciplines. 

To find out how to become a clinical psychologist, look at degree programs and study further on the fascinating profession of psychology.

© 2024 University Herald, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
* This is a contributed article and this content does not necessarily represent the views of
Join the Discussion
Real Time Analytics