Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Psychoanalyst

We all know, for better or worse, what is the meaning of the word “psychologist”, who he is and what he does, but what if I told you “psychotherapist” or “psychoanalyst”? Would you be confused? 

It is not a problem, it’s normal, if you don’t study psychology, to be a little unaware of the differences between these professionals figures, and this is the reason why we will try to explain to you how it works in Italy, with simple words! 

The PSYCHOLOGIST is a professional who has obtained a master’s degree in Psychology (5 years of study), who has completed an internship (1 year long), who has passed the State Exam, and has joined the Order of Psychologists. 

With his skills he can work in many fields, such as school, companies, human resources, but also in the clinical area: he can work with the tools for the assessment of mental distress, carrying out a work based on prevention, diagnosis, intervention, rehabilitation, and support.

However, this professional figure doesn’t have the tools that are necessary to treat all kinds of psychological problems (this is what the years of specialization are for). The psychologist has not obtained a psychotherapist diploma, and therefore cannot exercise real psychotherapy. He cannot cure the disease because he doesn’t work with the pathology, which is why he doesn’t have a therapeutic function. 

The PSYCHOTHERAPIST is that professional who, after his university studies, has completed other 4 years of studies to be specialized in psychotherapy.

The most important characteristic that makes him very different from the psychologist is that he works directly with the mental disorder, therefore he has a therapeutic function and he has the appropriate tools to intervene on mental illness (eg: personality disorders, anxiety disorders, depression, etc.) and different kind of psycho-emotion disorders. 

There are different types of psychotherapy approaches, including the so-called psychoanalysis. And here we are, now we can talk about the third professional figure, who can often be confused: the psychoanalyst. 

The PSYCHOANALYST: in this case, the main difference is in the specific orientation of the professional: the psychoanalyst is a psychotherapist who refers to Freud’s psychoanalysis and his successors. 

Psychoanalysis has some main characteristics that make it very different from other psychological orientations, for example, the use of the “famous” couch (which you have surely seen in some movies); the high frequency of therapy sessions (from 3 to 5 sessions per week); and the reference to psychoanalytic techniques, such as the interpretation of dreams, the free associations, etc. 

As you can notice, it is very easy to get confused, but we hope that this summary on the main differences may have been useful to you! 

Vittoria Mirabelli


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