Types of Mental Health Professionals

Courtney, Practice Manager, providing counselling services to one of her clients.Understanding the difference between certain types of mental health professionals is an important step in accessing support. You know you want someone who’s qualified, suits your needs and that you can trust. However, you’ve heard the terms counsellor, psychologist and psychiatrist and you’re not sure who would be best for you. So, what do those terms actually mean?


A psychiatrist is a doctor who has gone through intensive training, including medical school. They are able to diagnose and treat mental health disorders through therapeutic methods as well as through the prescription of medication. It is common for psychiatrists to see clients with more complex mental health disorders because they can prescribe and monitor psychiatric medication. All psychiatrists must maintain registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.


A psychologist is a mental health care provider who is qualified to diagnose and treat a range of mental health issues. They apply evidence-based therapeutic approaches to address a wide range of presenting problems such as depression, anxiety and addiction. Due to their diagnostic training, psychologists often work with clients who have more severe mental health issues. Sessions with a psychologist can be claimed under a Mental Health Care Plan from your GP. All psychologists are required to be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.


A counsellor is a mental health care provider who utilizes evidence-based therapeutic approaches to support a wide range of psychological concerns. Counsellors generally take a person-centred approach to help guide you, give you coping skills and work through states of anxiety and depression without focusing on a diagnosis. Psychologists and  counsellors both study mental health disorders; however, counsellors are not formally trained to diagnose them. Additionally, counsellors are not required to have specific qualifications. However, the majority of counsellors will have formal training, often including a Master’s Degree. It is also common for counsellors to be affiliated with a regulation body (PACFA or ACA.) Counselling is not able to be claimed under the Mental Health Care Plan. To accommodate this, session fees are often lower and many counsellors are providers with private health funds.


Counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists all work to support the mental health and well-being of their clients. Often, they work in conjunction with one another. The difference between the fields lies within the approach through which each professional can most benefit a client’s specific concerns. If you think that counselling is a good fit for you, take the first step and get linked in with one of our highly qualified counsellors today.