A lot of people struggle to understand the difference between clinical psychology and counseling psychology. This is in part due to the fact that there is a lot of overlap between the two and because many psychologists work in a variety of settings, meaning they do both clinical and counseling psychology as part of their work. Additionally, the term "clinical" is often used generically, in the sense that it describes a psychologist who is licensed to provide direct services, no matter what training they have completed.
The History of the Specialties
First of all, it is important to take a look back at the history of the two specializations, as this has guided the way the training has developed as well. Both types of psychology focus on psychotherapy and on counseling. Clinical comes from the Greek word "kline", meaning bed. Indeed, historically, clinical psychology would be delivered at the bedside of a patient. Counseling, on the other hand, comes from the Latin word "consulere", meaning advising. This is a very broad and initial difference between the two fields. Clinical psychology, as such, looks at mental health disturbances, whereas counseling psychology was about providing advice and guidance. However, these lines have blurred tremendously over time, which is why it is becoming increasingly difficult to pinpoint the differences between the two fields.
Indeed, as the two specialties evolved, they often overlapped and intertwined. Some 100 years ago, psychological science was first properly applied to real world problems, including mental illness and learning difficulties. This is when we started to see psychological clinics, where holistic treatment services were delivered. It was during this time that clinical psychologists started to deliver psychotherapy, which only psychiatrists were able to deliver before then. To this day, the overlap between the two disciplines is tremendous. Let's take a look, however, at the core differences between the two.
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