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Psychologists, social workers, counsellors, therapists – what’s the difference?

As a diverse practice with a variety of mental health professionals, at Mindful Psychology we are often asked about the difference between these professionals. Is there a ‘best’ choice? Who should you see for therapy?

Counsellors / therapists / psychotherapists

Counsellor or therapist, clinician or practitioner are all broad terms for professionals who provide psychological therapy. This can include social workers, psychologists, counsellors, and psychiatrists – any mental health professional who has completed appropriate evidence-based training in the provision of therapy.

All therapists at Mindful Psychology are highly skilled and experienced at providing psychological support, although different therapists often take interest in specific modalities or mental health conditions. You are welcome to ask our receptionists or your therapist about the types of approaches they are trained in and what their particular areas of interest are.


As practitioners of human behaviour, psychologists work in a range of settings. Although many are therapists who provide psychotherapy, this isn’t always the case. Some psychologists work on workplace wellbeing, health behaviour training, psychological research, or many other areas. At Mindful Psychology, all of our psychologists are skilled in the provision of therapy.

Psychologists are required to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree (which includes an honour’s degree) in psychological science, with a large focus on psychological theories and scientific research. To become registered, psychologists complete a further two or three years of postgraduate training in a field of professional psychology, often with a focus on therapy. This additional training may be at university or under supervised work practice. They may complete a masters or doctorate in clinical psychology or other specialised areas. To maintain their registration, all psychologists are required to undertake ongoing professional development and supervision.

Accredited mental health social workers (counsellors)

Accredited mental health social workers (AMHSWs) are practitioners who are trained to provide clinical mental health services, such as therapy. Social workers are required to complete an initial four-year degree in social work. To achieve accreditation in mental health they must complete numerous years of practice in mental health settings and receive at least two years of extra supervision and training. Additionally, most AMHSWs have postgraduate degrees in areas like counselling and psychology. At Mindful Psychology, our counsellors hold a minimum of a masters degree in social work.

The advanced training expected of AMHSWs means they are highly skilled and effective therapists. While they differ from psychologists in their initial training, the social workers and counsellors at Mindful Psychology were invited to join the team because of their experience and high level of skill in working therapeutically. Additionally, like psychologists, they are required to undertake ongoing professional development and supervision to maintain their accreditation.

Medicare and Mental Health Care Plans

If you have a Mental Health Treatment Plan from your GP or psychiatrist, Medicare will provide a rebate for therapy appointments with our psychologists and social workers (although the rebates will differ slightly). You can find more information about the fees and rebates here.

In answer to the initial question: there is no ‘best choice’ based on title – at Mindful Psychology, all psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists and counsellors are clinicians who have received a high level of training and ongoing professional development. The best choice of therapist will be different for each individual. If you like the look of the therapist’s profile on the team page and you think they may be able to help you, you’ve made a good start in your selection. If they don’t feel like the best fit for you by the end of the first session, you are welcome to book in with someone-else. In addition, our receptionists are trained to help you select the best match for you, if you would like additional assistance. We look forward to assisting you.

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