Counseling Versus Clinical Psychology

Many prospective graduate students are unsure of the distinctions between Counseling and Clinical Psychology, and therefore, have questions about which one is the right choice.  Despite significant overlap in the fields, there are also important distinctions that you should be aware of before applying to either program.

How are Counseling and Clinical Psychology similar?

  • Both Counseling and Clinical Psychology are applied fields of psychology, meaning that you develop specific skills for working with clients in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of emotional and behavioral problems. Students in either graduate program will be trained in applied skills that will be used in a mental health treatment setting.
  • Both Counseling and Clinical Psychology emphasize the scientific basis for counseling interventions, also known as evidence-based practice. Graduate training in both fields will include a significant emphasis on research.
  • A master’s degree in either Counseling or Clinical Psychology can prepare you for licensure as a professional counselor OR to go on to a doctoral program in these or related mental health fields.

How are Counseling and Clinical Psychology different?

  • The field of Counseling Psychology emphasizes personal and interpersonal health and well-being across the lifespan. Areas of focus within Counseling Psychology include emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns.  The field of Clinical Psychology places a greater emphasis on pathology and more severe mental health conditions.  Areas of focus within Clinical Psychology include assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders in adults and children.
  • Counseling Psychology has a strong focus on multicultural competence in working with individuals, groups, and communities from diverse backgrounds. This specialty also tends to emphasize social justice in its training and practice.  Clinical Psychology can also attend to such issues, but has a greater focus on appropriate assessment strategies and treatment approaches for individuals with a wide array of mental health diagnoses.
  • Counseling and Clinical Psychologists can and do work in similar environments much of the time, and have similar rates of employment as private practitioners and academics. However, Counseling Psychologists are more apt to work in community mental health settings, university counseling and career centers, while Clinical Psychologists are more likely to work in hospital and inpatient settings.

For more information on Counseling Psychology, please visit:

What is Counseling Psychology

For more information about the historical differences between Counseling and Clinical Psychology, please visit:

About Counseling vs. Clinical Psychology