Counseling Psychology Versus Clinical Psychology

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Within the field of psychology, there are several different types of licenses based on training experience, job function, and educational orientation. Within this paper, counseling psychology is compared and contrasted to clinical psychology to reflect about the differences in primary goals of a clinical psychologist and a counseling psychologist. Their differences and similarities in their perspectives on treatment will be discussed. The educational requirements for each will be clarified. The type of setting clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists work in will be defined, as well as what association each would be likely to join and their code of ethics. The advantages and disadvantages for each profession will be explained. 

The Primary Goals of Clinical Psychologists and Counseling Psychologists

According to Roger and Stone (2013) and the American Psychological Association (APA, 2013a), when clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists sprang from the field of psychology, they often overlapped in the type of work they did. Counseling psychology’s historic roots are within vocational counseling and in the 1950s expanded to offering counseling for everyday problems, stated Rogers and Stone (2013). Clinical psychologists also have their start in vocational counseling, but offered psychotherapy services similar to what psychiatrists offered. However, after WWII, according to Roger and Stone, clinical psychologists were needed to treat veterans for disorders associated with the trauma of combat, while counselors were hired to help with the vocational counseling of veterans. As a result, stated Roger and Stone, clinical psychologists strive to resolve issues arising from mental illness, while counselors strive to enhance people’s lives from a wellness model. 

Counseling vs. Clinical Psychology - Similarities and Differences in Treatment

As stated in the previous paragraph, these historic origins influence the goals of clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists, according to Roger and Stone (2013), and can still be observed in the field today. Clinical psychologists treat disorders and psychopathology. They also use assessments as a way to delineate cognitive and emotional problems in individuals, stated APA (2013a). Counseling psychologists, observed Roger and Stone (2013), work with people who do not have severe mental disabilities and illnesses. They see each individual as a well person and help people with personal and emotional problems. Clinical psychologists can perform the same function.

Educational Requirements for Clinical Psychology and Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychology programs and clinical psychology programs do have similarities and differences, according to the APA (2013b) and Rogers and Stone (2013). One can become a clinical psychologist through attending a program that trains an individual on the doctoral level. Usually, coursework includes psychotherapy, rigorous training in testing and assessment, and a 2000-hour internship. While clinical psychology programs might differ from one another, each at least has these core requirements on the doctoral level.

In contrast, Rogers and Stone (2013) expressed, there are several types of counseling programs on the masters and doctoral level, and concentrate on helping students acquire competencies in different types of counseling situations, such as group counseling, individual counseling, and vocational counseling. Different counseling programs on the masters level are school psychology and mental health counseling. One can also get a counseling degree on the doctoral level. 

Work Settings for Clinical Psychology and Counseling Psychology

According to the APA (2013b), clinical psychologists work in “individual practice, mental health service units, managed healthcare organizations, hospitals, schools, universities, industries, legal systems, medical systems, counseling centers, governmental agencies, and military services” (Where Do Clinical Psychologists Work?). Counseling psychologists also work within these settings according to Rogers and Stone (2013), alongside clinical psychologists in these settings. 

Professional Associations and Their Code of Ethics For Clinical and Counseling Psychologists

Most professional psychological associations have a code of ethics. Clinical psychologists can join the APA (2013a) and are guided by the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. There are more associations for counselors, but their code of ethics have many of the same salient points, such as defining the counselor-client relationship, how professionals should handle different aspects of the therapist-client relationship, and informed consent procedures. For instance, the American Counseling Association (ACA) has the ACA Code of Ethics (2005), and the American Mental Health Counselor Association (AMHCA) has the Principles for AMHCA Code of Ethics. 

Advantages and Disadvantages for Clinical and Counseling Psychologists

An advantage in counseling psychology is the whole person approach inherent in the practice of counseling. Counselors build upon the strengths of the client. While clinical psychologists are always trying to identify what’s wrong, they are trained to handle a wider array of disorders in the DSM than counseling psychologists.

Counseling psychologists and clinical psychologists have many similarities and differences within their training and job descriptions. The one thing all psychologists have in common is their focus to help all human kind with their mental and emotional health. 


American Counseling Association (ACA). (2005). ACA code of ethics. Retrieved from

American Mental Health Counselor Association (2010). Principles for AMHCA code of ethics. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association. (APA). (2013a). About clinical psychology. Society of Clinical Psychology, Division 12. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association. (APA). (2013b). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Retrieved from 

Roger, P. R. & Stone. G. (2013). Counseling vs. clinical. Society of Counseling Psychology, Division 17. Retrieved from