Therapist vs. Psychologist

Should My Child See a Therapist or Psychologist?

June 10, 2022

You want the best for your child, and that means finding the best treatment for their mental health condition. With the variety of providers available, you may wonder which type of mental health professional your teenager should see. Each has specific credentials and benefits, and understanding the difference between a therapist and a psychologist can help you make this decision more easily. 

What Is a Therapist?

A therapist is a master’s level clinician. Typically, their degree is either in mental health counseling, social work, or marriage and family therapy. These programs are similar, but the main distinction is specialization. Marriage and family therapists focus on children, couples, and family units. Mental health counselors don’t usually choose a demographic to work with until after their program when they seek credentials in types of counseling. Social workers work with a variety of individuals and connect clients with community resources. 

Clinical and Professional Psychologists

If a psychologist is providing mental health care, they should have a doctoral degree. A clinical psychologist has completed the required coursework and supervised clinical experience. This usually takes four to five years as opposed to the two years a master’s program takes. They also engage in research throughout their studies. 

Which Mental Health Provider Is Best?

Both therapists and psychologists are qualified to provide mental health services to your teen. When deciding between the two, here are some tips for choosing which to see:

Prioritize Licensed and Pre-Licensed Clinicians

Licensure in mental health care is one of the most important factors to consider in treatment. A licensed counselor has the education and clinical experience necessary to provide comprehensive care. Often, there are testing requirements and supervision requirements for full licensure, so this ensures a mental health clinician has had thorough training. Pre-licensed clinicians have the educational experience and are supervised by a fully licensed provider until they obtain enough clinical hours for licensure. These professionals are still qualified to work with your child, and the additional supervision means your teen will have even more support.

Look For Specializations

Providers will typically list their specialty online. For example, if your teen has ADHD, you can look for someone who works with behavior and attention-related disorders. Finding someone who is skilled and experienced with your teen’s condition is often more important than a particular degree. 

Consider Availability, Cost, and Location

Depending on where you live, there may be more of one type of provider than others. As a result, some may have more availability than others. If your child needs to see someone quickly, waiting even a few weeks could be damaging, so you may choose based on who has openings. While maybe not the highest priority, cost and location can also affect where you seek treatment. Some clinics will accept insurance, making therapy more affordable. Your location is also a consideration in this decision, especially if driving long distances is challenging. 

Comprehensive Care at The Forum

Finding the best mental health care for your teenager may be easier than you think. Located in San Diego, California, The Forum offers therapy, psychiatry, and case management all in one place. We are passionate about integrative care, meaning your teen participates in therapy alongside our other services.

Our psychiatric care allows for in-house medication management and testing services. Individual and family therapy services give your teen the space to process through difficult life circumstances and develop healthy coping skills. Our case management team will work with you and your child throughout treatment to ensure you have the best resources both within and outside of our facility. Our clinicians are either licensed or under the supervision of a licensed therapist, meaning your teen is receiving the best care. If you’re looking for mental health care for your teenager, contact The Forum today.