Counsellor vs Coach vs Psychologist
Life is a journey
Life is a journey, and there are multiple times throughout our lives that we may find ourselves needing a bit of support, guidance, and help. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, there is strength in reaching out for help. Life is difficult enough, why add extra pressure and stress when it can be halved by simply sharing it with someone? Sometimes we punish ourselves even further by refusing to accept that we need an outsider’s perspective.
As the journey changes, so does the type and form of therapy needed. In order for the therapy process to be effective, we obviously need to be seeking help in the right area and from the right person. This can sometimes take time and a bit of trial and error.
Take a physical ailment as an example- the first medical practitioner you see may not be able to diagnose your aches and pains, but that doesn’t stop you. They will more than likely be able to steer you in a better direction and towards someone that can. Until, eventually, you reach a resolution. This is all part of the process, so don’t let it deter you. You will, without a doubt, take something away from everyone you meet. The process can however be made simpler and more beneficial if you have a sound idea of the different types of therapies out there. Simply put, making your decision a more educated one.
Finding what works is key!
So, whether you have been through a major life trauma, are struggling with day-to-day struggles, need a bit of direction or simply want to work towards being the best version of yourself. It is important to know who will be best to book with so that you can make the most of the experience. There will be different times in your life when you experience all these different scenarios and will need to call on a range of therapies and specialists.
So, you have acknowledged that you need guidance. You have accepted that you need help. That is huge! But now what? Who do you book with? What help do you seek?
What is the difference between a counsellor, registered counsellor and psychologist?
The difference between a counsellor, registered counsellor and psychologist basically boils down to their scope of practice and ethical code. They will be registered with different bodies and are trained in different areas.
A psychologist is a mental health professional who has a minimum of a masters degree in psychology, and is registered as a clinical, counselling or educational psychologist with the HPCSA. This will determine their area of expertise, scope of work and limitations. This also means that most of them are able to claim back from medical aid. Generally speaking, a clinical psychologist is better trained to work with disorders such as depression and anxiety; a counselling psychologist works closely with everyday struggles and difficulties or general life problems such as stress, divorce and financial worry; an educational psychologist deals with learning difficulties.
Assessing the Differences between a Counsellor vs Coach vs Psychologist.
A clinical psychologist’s role, according to Very Well Mind, is to ‘Assess, diagnose and treat individuals experiencing psychological distress and mental illness. They also perform psychotherapy and develop treatment plans.’
A counselling psychologist’s role, according to Very Well Mind, is to ‘Provide psychotherapy to people experiencing psychological disturbances, behavioral problems, emotional difficulties, stress, and related issues. These professionals share many commonalities with clinical psychologists.’
An educational psychologist’s role, according to Very Well Mind, is to ‘Study how people learn and the educational process. This might involve developing instructional strategies and teaching techniques. Some educational psychologists study giftedness or learning disabilities.’
Different types of counsellors.
A registered counsellor, on the other hand, will have a BPsych degree in psychology that authorises them to provide basic counselling and assessments per their scope of practice. Registered counsellors are often the first point of counselling for individuals and families and will normally refer clients should the need and/or time arise. These counsellors are registered through the HPCSA and most are also able to claim back from medical aid.
South Africa also has other counselling bodies that acknowledge other fields of study and experience, although still in the field of psychology. A counsellor may be registered through the CCSA, CPSC or through the ASCHP.
A counsellor that is registered with the ASCHP focuses on holistic healing by focusing on all areas of the person’s life (mind and body, relationships, financial etc.). They evaluate general well-being and are therefore often referred to as wellness specialists or wellness counsellors. They cannot claim back from medical aid, which normally means their fees are lower. A counsellor registered with the CCSA is much the same as this. A counsellor that is registered with the CPSC is a pastoral counsellor. ‘Pastoral Counseling is a unique form of psychotherapy which uses spiritual resources as well as psychological understanding for healing and growth. It is provided by certified pastoral counselors, who are not only mental health professionals but who have also had in-depth religious and/or theological training.’ 
Here is a great checklist that one may use as a guideline.
Thanks, to Zoe Wilson at Counsellors in SA 
- You are looking for longer-term therapy (10 sessions +).
- You have a diagnosed disorder and want to receive therapy for it.
- You want to claim from your medical aid.
- You think your partner or a family member has a disorder and want them to receive counselling for it.
- You want counselling for yourself, family or relationships.
- You have feelings of suicide or are feeling extremely depressed.
If you answered yes to these statements, it may be best to seek an appointment from an HPCSA registered professional, such as a psychologist.
Here is another list to consider.
- You are looking for counselling for yourself, regarding general life stress, and want a safe place to “vent”.
- You need counselling for your marriage, relationship, or family and want to focus on a few factors, such as finances, children or problems with your job or in-laws.
- You need general life coaching.
- You need trauma debriefing or counselling.
- You are able to spend anywhere between R100-R600 per session depending on the counsellor’s rates.
If you answered yes to the above, then booking a session with an ASCHP or CCSA counsellor may suit you better.
Do I need a counsellor or coach?
Not sure whether to see a psychologist/counsellor or a coach? The main difference here is that a counsellor focuses more on the past and dealing with hurt and pain as a result of these circumstances; whereas, a coach focuses more on the present and the future, helping to coach you to where you want to be.
If you need to recover from a past trauma, explore past relationships and why they could be causing problems in current relationships, work through depressive thoughts or episodes, process a divorce or the loss of a loved one or overcome anxiety and anxious thoughts, then it may be best to see a counsellor or psychologist.
If it is your goal or aim to set, clarify and achieve personal and professional goals, create business plans, improve skills (anger management, stress management, conflict resolution, communication etc.), achieve a better balance in your life, grow your business and overall better yourself and your life, then a coach may be the better choice.
Take the first step
It is important to identify where you are on your journey in order to best determine the help you may need. Maybe you even need direction and guidance in identifying where you are in your journey, that’s okay too. Every conversation will have a healing power and lead you to your final destination: HAPPINESS. Take the first step, the rest will follow…
Because the therapy process relies on connection and expertise to be a success, we have included both these aspects in our specialists’ bios. Not only will you be able to select the specific area in which you need help, but you will also get to see where your specialist’s interests and experience lie- and a little bit of who they are. All these things will aid in making an educated decision, and ensuring a more successful session and result.