Clinical Psychologist

Clinical Psychologist or Registered Psychologist…What’s the difference?

November 21, 2019

Common Questions in a Psychology Practice, Part 1.

There are a few questions that seem to pop up again and again in a psychology practice, one being “what is the difference between a clinical psychologist and a registered psychologist”? Here at Attuned Psychology we have both, so let’s have a quick look at what a “Clinical” and “Registered” Psychologist are.

However before I explain that, let me very quickly, and very briefly, start with a basic explanation of what a psychologist is…..

A psychologist is someone who is professionally trained in the science of how people think, feel, behave and learn. Now, psychologists can actually work in a range of fields including mental health and well-being (the area that we’ll focus on), but also in education and training, population health, justice and corrections, public policy, corporate and commercial fields, marketing and communication and even in emerging technology and design. This is why there are many different types of psychologists that you may have heard of including Neuropsychologists, Educational Psychologists, Forensic Psychologists, Health Psychologists, Work and Organisational Psychologists and Sports Psychologists, and several others.

But what about Clinical Psychologists and Registered Psychologists, and what’s the difference?

A Clinical Psychologist is a psychologist who has a specific area of what we call “practice endorsement”, just like the different types of psychologists listed in the information above…only this time instead of “Sports” or “Health”, the practice endorsement, or speciality, is “Clinical”. A psychologist with a Clinical endorsement has usually undertaken additional university qualifications and/or further study and supervised training in the area of Clinical psychology (which we can think of as the mental health and well-being we were talking about above) in order to be identified as a Clinical Psychologist.

So what does it really mean if you see a Clinical Psychologist, or a Registered Psychologist…and does it make much of a difference?

When you seek help from a psychologist, whether it be from a Clinical Psychologist or a Registered Psychologist, you should expect the same level and quality of care, ethical behaviour and standards of practice. All psychologists, whether Clinical or Registered must be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia and meet high standards in education, training, supervised practice and ongoing learning and development (yes, we have to keep this up for as long as we wish to practice in psychology). More than 60% of Australia’s psychologists are registered psychologists and they often end up doing much the same, if not exactly the same (if in private practice) types of work that a clinical psychologist does.

Personally, when a family member, friend, client, or even if a random person off the street (!!) were to ask me whether they should see a Clinical or Registered Psychologist, my answer would be this….it depends on the psychologist!

By that I mean, there are other factors, besides the terms Clinical or Registered that in my personal opinion, actually hold a lot of importance.

Such as,

  • Does the psychologist work in, and are they experienced in the area I think I’m needing help in? (ie. anxiety, depression, trauma, child psychology, family therapy etc)
  • Are they accessible? (distance, costs, psychologist availability etc.)
  • Do I feel comfortable with them? ……..The ​most important aspect of psychological support and of making positive change is the therapeutic relationship between a client and their psychologist. I am always telling people, including my own clients, that if after a few sessions you’re not feeling like you and you’re psychologist are the right fit, that’s ok. That might mean sharing this feeling with your psychologist and easing some anxiety, or seeing if you can make changes that will help. Or it might mean that you’re just not the right fit and another psychologist might be a better fit. But please don’t give up on psychology if you don’t gel with the first psychologist you ever see….try again, and don’t worry, we don’t get offended if that occurs….you’re well-being is what’s important to us and it doesn’t hurt our feelings.
  • Do I feel confident in their skills and that I am on the right track, even if I haven’t made the improvements I want just yet? …..I’ve had people tell me before, that they weren’t sure if their psychologist’s approach was helping them, or if they were actually getting what they wanted and needed from their psychologist. This is important to note! I personally encourage my clients to be honest and share with me if ​ever they are unsure about the course of therapy and what we’re doing. This enables the psychologist to take the time to explain their approach and explore your concerns with you, and ultimately do their best to ensure you’re on the right path.

So there you have it…a quick rundown of the differences, or perhaps not so much, between a Clinical and a Registered Psychologist, and what else you might want to consider when looking to see a psychologist.

For ‘Part 2’ I’ll tackle the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist…another common area of confusion.

If you have any further questions or are interested in making a booking with any of our psychologists, contact us here and our reception team will assist in making your first booking.

Cara Crothers

Clinical Psychologist.


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