What is the difference between a therapist and a psychologist?

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A psychologist is a type of therapist with advanced training and the ability to diagnose and treat most mental illnesses. 

A therapist is a catch-all term that can include psychologists, social workers, counselors, psychoanalysts, and psychiatrists. Therapists help you live your best life by helping you gain clarity about your life, learn new coping skills, and get an unbiased opinion and support. (Check out these tips from therapists about new skills you can learn to improve your mental health.)

Usually a psychologist has an advanced degree in psychology — like a PhD or PsyD — and can diagnose mental illnesses as well as ascertain what is the best course of treatment for a client or patient. Psychologists are often well-trained to handle complex cases, such as where there has been intense trauma or a major disorder like schizophrenia. 

A psychologist with a PhD is a therapist who has had years of graduate school to be trained as a social scientist, so they can also perform research and assessments. If the psychologist has a PsyD instead a PhD, their work focuses on clinical work more than research. PsyD psychologists are more likely to provide therapy, while PhD psychologists are more likely to conduct research.