Counseling psychology as a psychological specialty facilitates personal and interpersonal
functioning across the life span with a focus on emotional, social, vocational, educational,
health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns.
Through the integration of theory, research, and practice, and with a sensitivity
to multicultural issues, this specialty encompasses a broad range of practices that
help people improve their well-being, alleviate distress and maladjustment, resolve
crises, and increase their ability to live more highly functioning lives.
Counseling psychology is unique in its attention both to normal developmental issues
and to problems associated with physical, emotional, and mental disorders.
For more information on the training and work settings of counseling psychologists,
visit the website of Division 17 of the American Psychological Association, the Society
of Counseling Psychology.
What is the Difference Between Counseling Psychology and Clinical Psychology?
These two specialty areas of psychology have different historical roots, but their
similarities are far greater than their differences in the present day. Both counseling
psychologists and clinical psychologists work as researchers, college professors,
psychotherapists, administrators, and clinical supervisors. Graduates of doctoral
programs in both areas are eligible for licensure as psychologists throughout the
Given these similarities, are there any differences? Surveys of counseling and clinical
psychologists have revealed a few differences in graduate training, research areas,
and practice that reflect the unique histories of the two specialty areas. For example,
counseling psychologists are more likely than clinical psychologists to (a) offer
psychological services to relatively healthy populations, (b) work in university
counseling centers, (c) conduct career and vocational assessment, and (d) do research
on aspects of sociocultural diversity and vocational assessment. In contrast, clinical
psychologists are more likely than counseling psychologists to (a) offer psychological
services to populations with severe mental illness, (b) work in hospitals or other
medical settings, (c) assess and diagnosis severe psychopathology, and (d) do research
on serious mental illness and medical psychology.
These differences should be viewed as distinctive emphases rather than unique characteristics
of the two specialty areas. For example, some clinical psychology programs may offer
vocational assessment training, whereas some counseling psychology programs may offer
substantial training in psychiatric diagnosis. Prospective doctoral applicants may
be best served by considering all options and then applying to the programs that
best match their academic credentials, research interests, applied training interests,
and career aspirations.