What's the difference??

As this website is focused more on psychology and on becoming a psychologist, the topic of other careers outside being a psychologist was not really looked at. This post would be looking at the differences between a psychologist, psychiatrist, counsellor and a social worker. Since this topic is going to be part of a talk I am going to do next month, here's a preview with more indepth research, including avenues you could do more research into.

So what are the differences between a psychologist, psychiatrist, counsellor and a social worker?? These are all considered as mental health professionals, with much overlap in training and services provided to the clients. The differentiation below would include differences in the education, work, and associations/societies in Singapore where you can find more information about each of them.


Psychologists: Mental health professionals who are trained in psychology up to postgraduate level in the different specifications of psychology, and involved with work including testing and assessment, research, psychoeducation (such as holding workshops) and psycho-therapeutic counselling. They usually work with clients with mental health issues and disorders.
Registration: Singapore Register of Psychologists
Membership: Singapore Psychological Society

PsychiatristsMental health professionals who are trained as medical practitioners but has then gone on to receive specialized training in treating mental disorders, usually a postgraduate degree or further training in Psychiatry. They are specialised in treating mental illness using the biomedical approach to mental disorders including the use of medications. The main difference between psychiatrists and psychologists is the prescription of medication and dealing with clients with medical disorders that require medication.
Registration: MOH Specialists Accreditation Board
Membership: Singapore Psychiatric Association

CounsellorsMental health professionals who are trained in counselling, through a postgraduate degree or Bachelors degree with further on-the-job training. As compared to psychologists, counsellors are more focused with helping people cope with more normal life problems, rather than mental health issues; however, there is a trend towards counsellors becoming more involved in helping individuals with more serious mental health problems including the same conditions addressed by psychologists, e.g. depression, anxiety, resulting in a confusion in the job titles of "Psychologist" and "Counsellor". Unlike psychologists, counsellors do not do psychological testing and assessment, and research, unless for academic-related work.
Registration: Singapore Association for Counselling / Association of Psychotherapists and Counsellors (Singapore)
Membership: Singapore Association for CounsellingAssociation of Psychotherapists and Counsellors (Singapore)

Social WorkersMental health professionals who are trained (from Bachelors to postgraduate levels) to provide help to people in need and assist them to manage their problems more effectively. Professional social work is focused on problem solving and change, focusing on the role of social factors and interventions at the social level. Social workers are especially knowledgeable of what mental health services are available in the community and help empower their clients to obtain such services. They provide case management, counselling, information and referral, outreach and family intervention in the community. They can work with individuals and families in family service centres, children and youth centres, hospitals, hospices and other community/social service agencies. Compared with counsellors, their work are very similar, but social workers do more outreach work than a counsellor.
Registration: Singapore Association of Social Workers (SASW)
Membership: Social Work Accreditation Board

Registration vs Membership

As I am writing another post, I started to look back at my previous posts on the labels (look at the right of this page) of "Registration" and "Membership". I noticed that I have never written on the difference of those two words!! The only posts that had them together were both written in 2011; and yes, there were only two: this and that.

So what is the difference between "Registration" and "Membership"??

Being registered, it would mean that you are a qualified practitioner with the required qualifications and experience met, and other requirements as mentioned by the society / association / board. This would allow you to practice as a psychologist (or the mental health practitioner that you registered for). This will also ensure your employers that you are competent for the job.
Note: In different countries, they might also use the words "chartered" / "licensed" / "accredited". See this post for details.

To be a member of a society or association, that would mean that you are a person connected to that group, and have a membership status (Student, Affiliate, Associate, Full, etc.) with it. With a membership, it may allow you to get some privileges and benefits, and get you connected to the group. However, it may not indicate that you are a qualified practitioner (though usually full members are)!!

Hope that clarifies things!

Confusion about Australian vs UK degree programs

Before you start reading on, please read this post regarding the comparison of Bachelors degrees first.

Ok, I have received several emails from readers regarding their choices of Bachelors degrees, and one common thing they often do is to choose one Australian and one UK degree, and ask me to compare on which is better. However, I always have some issues when trying to explain about the programs, and the dilemma that the enquirer will take up whichever program that is faster/cheaper.

Whilst comparing the Australian and UK Bachelors programs, people tend to ask me:
Question: Which is better?
My reply: You have to research through the modules that are offered in the programs, to see which modules suit you and complement what you already learnt and know.
Question: Which is preferable for my career later?
My reply: It is really hard to tell which is preferable, but as both are done in private institutions, I reckon they are about the same.
Question: Which is cheaper?
My reply: Please research about the fees from the private institution's website or call them up.
Question: Which can I finish faster?
My reply: This would depend on how much exemptions you can get from the prior education and training you have received.
Replies for these questions may differ based on each individual, as each person's experience and training is different.

The one difference between Australian and UK Bachelors programs is that though the actual timespan for both programs are 3 years, UK programs tend to include Honours, while Australian programs don't. For the Australian system, please read this post. For Australian Honours, they are usually the 4th year of training (an extra year after Bachelors), and will have to be done locally in Australia (other than JCU Singapore). This is the factor that may push students to take up UK programs as it means having a Bachelors with Honours degree than other students and having access to Masters programs faster, but you must consider that the program's modules and quality may be affected due to this faster-paced  curriculum.

My last advice: Make sure you do your research about the programs and think about it thoroughly before you embark on this journey in psychology! Good luck!

Stage 1: Student with Considerations for Psychology in University

Hi Everyone

I am a graduate from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Diploma of Psychology & Community Services. I took interest in Psychology when I was in secondary school and hence studied real hard to get it in. However, several questions do arise after graduation.
  1. What if I want to continue to pursue Psychology as a career?
  2. Do I have enough funds to support my studies?
  3. If I am working full time, will I be able to manage my school, work and social life?
  4. What do I want to do upon graduating with a degree with Honours?
  5. Which school has better accreditation?
I believe everyone faces the same problems when it comes when deciding their course of studies for their Bachelors degrees, similar for the polytechnic diplomas and Masters degrees. But it is crucial because nowadays most employers prefer to employ degree holders and hence more research is required to determine before making the final decision.

 For me, currently, I am aiming to become a professional social worker/youth worker that could work in the community. I always like to be involved in projects and implementing programs. For me, psychology is my passion and interest which I cannot find any other courses that is attractive as it.

After much consideration & research, I have chosen to take up a part-time psychology degree with Honors in a local private institution. Bottomline, you just have to find out what you are your purpose in life and all things will be in place.

J