Last updated:

April 2, 2024


 min read

Exploring the Differences: Counselling vs. Clinical Psychology

Explore the differences between counselling and clinical psychology, including their scopes, approaches, and training, to understand their roles in mental health support. Discover how these fields complement each other to provide holistic care for individuals' well-being.


In the realm of mental health support, counselling and clinical psychology are two prominent fields that aim to assist individuals in managing their emotional and psychological challenges. While they share similarities, they also exhibit key differences in their approaches, scope, and objectives. This article delves into the variances between counselling and clinical psychology, shedding light on their unique roles in supporting individuals' mental well-being.

Another major field in the practice of mental health is psychiatry. Psychiatrists are doctors with an MBBS and MD/DNB/DPM (Degree or Diploma) and can diagnose disorders and provide medication. An important distinction between psychiatrists and psychologists is that psychologists (neither counselling nor clinical) can not prescribe medication. 

Definition and Scope

Counselling: Counselling typically involves providing guidance, support, and encouragement to individuals facing various life challenges or emotional difficulties. Counselors often work with clients to explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in a safe and nonjudgmental environment. They employ various therapeutic techniques to help clients gain insight, develop coping strategies, and make positive changes in their lives. Counselling may focus on addressing specific issues such as relationship problems, grief, stress management, anxieties, emotional duress, or personal growth.

Clinical Psychology: Clinical psychology, on the other hand, encompasses a broader range of services that include assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental health disorders. Clinical psychologists are trained to evaluate and diagnose psychological conditions using standardised assessment tools and diagnostic criteria. They often work with individuals experiencing severe or complex mental health issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia,  personality disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders, dementia etc. Clinical psychologists utilise evidence-based therapies and interventions to alleviate symptoms, improve functioning, and enhance overall well-being.

Training and Education

Counselling: In general, counsellors pursue graduate-level education in counselling or a related field such as psychology, social work, or mental health counselling. They may obtain a master's degree or higher and undergo supervised clinical training or internships to develop their therapeutic skills. While licensure requirements vary by country, counsellors typically need to fulfil specific education, training, and supervised experience criteria to become practitioners.

Clinical Psychology: Clinical psychologists undergo extensive training and education to become licensed mental health professionals. They typically hold M.Phil and or doctoral degrees (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in clinical psychology, which involve comprehensive coursework, research, and clinical practicum experiences. In countries outside of India a Ph.D. and Psy.D is necessary to become a clinical psychologist. In India, it is necessary that clinical psychologists have to complete their M.Phil and be registered with the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI). Additionally, some clinical psychologists pursue board certification in specialised areas of practice, such as child psychology, neuropsychology, or forensic psychology.

Therapeutic Approaches

Counselling: Counsellors employ a wide range of therapeutic approaches tailored to the individual needs and preferences of their clients. These may include psychodynamic therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), solution-focused brief therapy, humanistic-existential therapy, or mindfulness-based techniques. The primary focus of counselling is to facilitate self-awareness, personal growth, and problem-solving skills to help clients overcome challenges and improve their quality of life.

Clinical Psychology: Clinical psychologists utilise evidence-based treatments grounded in scientific research to address specific mental health disorders and symptoms. These may include CBT, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), exposure therapy, or interpersonal therapy, among others. Treatment plans are often tailored to the individual's diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment goals, with a focus on symptom reduction, behaviour change, and functional improvement.

Settings and Populations Served

Counselling: Counsellors work in various settings such as community mental health centres, schools, colleges, private practices, employee assistance programs (EAPs), or religious institutions. They may serve clients across the lifespan, from children and adolescents to adults and older adults, addressing a wide range of concerns related to mental health, relationships, career, or personal development. They work in university health centres, rehabilitation centres, but they can also have a private practice.

Clinical Psychology: Clinical psychologists practise in diverse settings, including hospitals, clinics, psychiatric facilities, rehabilitation centres, universities, or research institutions. They often specialise in working with specific populations or clinical issues, such as children and families, trauma survivors, substance abuse, eating disorders, or chronic mental illness. Clinical psychologists may also conduct psychological assessments for diagnostic clarification, treatment planning, or forensic evaluations.


In summary, while counselling and clinical psychology share common goals of supporting individuals' mental well-being, they differ in their scope, training, therapeutic approaches, and populations served. Counselling emphasises providing guidance and support to individuals facing various life challenges, whereas clinical psychology focuses on diagnosing and treating mental health disorders using evidence-based interventions. Both fields play crucial roles in promoting mental health and helping individuals lead fulfilling lives, each contributing unique perspectives and expertise to the broader landscape of mental health care. 

Ready to take charge of your mental health journey? Connect with our experienced therapists and psychologists at Rocket Health today to receive personalized support and guidance tailored to your needs.