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4 min read

Psychologist vs Master’s-Level Therapist: A Full Comparison

psychologist writing down notes

Key Takeaways:

  • Psychologists and master’s-level therapists are both licensed professionals with the skills and experience needed to address various types of mental health conditions.
  • Psychologists have more education and training in evidence-based therapies.
  • Whichever you choose, be sure to research your mental health professional to make sure they're right for you.

Therapy is a highly personalized practice. For each new patient, a large part of the counselor's job is determining what type of therapy is best for them and curating a specific treatment plan that often differs by patient.

When trying to choose a mental health professional, there are a number of factors to consider, including:

  • The education and training of your therapist
  • Whether they can accommodate your schedule
  • Affordability
  • Location
  • Rapport

All of these questions and more will help you narrow down whether a psychologist or a master’s-level therapist is better for you.

Let's answer these questions and help you narrow down your search for a mental health professional near you.

Covered on this page:

How is a psychologist different from a master’s-level therapist?

What Does a Master’s-Level Therapist Treat?

What Does a Psychologist Treat?

When Should You Choose a Psychologist Over a Master’s-Level Therapist?

WTG: Therapy With a Psychologist in New York City or Austin

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How is a psychologist different from a master’s-level therapist?

The biggest difference between a psychologist and a master’s-level therapist is the level of education and training each is required to have before seeing patients.

Requirements

Psychologist

Master’s-Level Therapist

Bachelor’s Degree

Master’s Degree

Doctorate Degree

Number of Supervised Training Hours

3,500+

3,000+

Examination Questions

225

143

Specialized Training

Child Abuse

Psychologists have several years more training and education than master’s-level therapists.

Psychologist Vs. Master’s-Level Therapist Experience Levels

Psychologists must complete 500 more hours of supervised practice than master’s-level therapists and have more stringent requirements on what counts as an "hour."

Psychologists are held to a higher standard in order for state licensing boards to differentiate between classes of counselors.

Psychologist vs. Master’s-Level Therapist Exam Requirements

Master’s-level therapists must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination in order to qualify for licensing. The NCMHCE consists of 143 multiple-choice questions divided into 11 case studies that examine simulated clinical situations.

By contrast, the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology consists of 225 questions relating to both counseling as well as brain chemistry and biology.

Both exams are fairly difficult, and serve to give mental health professionals a way to prove their competence in their respective fields.

Psychologist vs. Master’s-Level Therapist Effectiveness

Most studies indicate that a doctoral-level psychologist and a master’s-level therapist have similar rates of therapeutic effectiveness. However, it’s important to note that most studies conducted in this regard require psychologists and master's-level therapists to use the exact same methodology.

By contrast, in real clinical practice, psychologists can use their deeper knowledge of thought patterns and brain biology to alter methodologies on the fly. Many patients find that a psychologist is more capable of therapeutic individualization than a master’s-level therapist.

For example, an LCSW (licensed clinical social worker) may be trained in cognitive behavioral therapy, which can be very effective for many patients. But certain patients may not feel as though it’s working. For these patients, a psychologist may be better equipped to alter treatment to something that may yield results.

A psychologist, through their training, may have access to a broader assortment of evidence-backed treatments to create more effective, more individualized treatments for their patients.

Psychologist vs. Master’s-Level Therapist Costs

The cost of a therapy session depends mostly on the patient's location and the specific practice they visit. Both master's-level therapists and psychologists generally charge in the range of $100 to $300 per session, though psychologists tend to be slightly more expensive given their expertise and level of training.

What Does a Master’s-Level Therapist Treat?

Master’s-level therapists are qualified in treating mental health concerns like anxiety and depression, as well as analyzing life circumstances that could be contributing to those concerns.

Typically, a master’s-level therapist will use one or more types of therapy, activities, and coping strategies to, at a minimum, ease symptoms and, ideally, resolve mental health concerns over time.

Master’s-level therapists can use one of several types of therapy, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Group therapy

The type of therapy that a master’s-level therapist uses will depend on the patient and the nature of their problem. Therapists use their expertise to make this determination and work with the patient on a treatment plan that is best for them.

What Does a Psychologist Treat?

A psychologist can do and treat everything a master’s-level therapist can—and more. A psychologist specializes in using evidence-backed techniques to treat patients' mental health concerns.

A psychologist can and often does offer the same types of therapy as a master's degree-level therapist, but may apply special skills acquired through additional education and training. After all, a psychologist is, by definition, a scientist, so they have a deeper knowledge of brain biology, which can be applied to diagnoses and treatment plans on a case-by-case basis. 

A core difference between a psychologist and a master's-level therapist is how each approaches treatment plans.

While a master’s-level therapist uses well-established and scientific methodologies, a psychologist can build upon those methodologies to provide more insight into a patient's psyche.

When Should You Choose a Psychologist Over a Master’s-Level Therapist?

Deciding whether to go to a psychologist is an individual decision, but many patients report choosing one because they feel that someone with more education and training gives them a higher degree of confidence that they will be able to quickly get to the root cause of issues and develop a more customized way of overcoming them.  

A psychologist can be very helpful when it comes to dealing with more complicated mental health problems by using research and evidence.

WTG: Therapy With a Psychologist in New York City or Austin

Williamsburg Therapy Group is a premium therapy collective with offices in New York City and Austin, TX.

Every member of our counseling staff is a doctoral-level psychologist (or psychiatrist) with years of experience treating mental health issues in a holistic manner.

Schedule an appointment today if you feel your specific mental health situation would be best handled by a top-of-their-field psychologist.

 

Book a Therapy Session in NYC or Austin Today