What’s the Difference Between a Clinical Psychologist and Psychologist?

What’s the Difference Between a Clinical Psychologist and Psychologist?

Defining the difference between a clinical psychologist and a psychologist can be tricky.

Both, are trained in therapy;

both have a minimum of 6 years of psychology training with a practical component;

both can treat a wide range of mental health issues;

and, there is no difference in the standard of care they provide clients.

A common mistake people make is to assume a clinical psychologist is better than a psychologist.

In actual fact, what defines the quality of a psychologist is multi-faceted and whether they’re a clinical psychologist or psychologist does not really weigh in. A good psychologist will have experience in the area you’re seeking help for, will be able to build a strong relationship with you, will instil hope and motivation in you to make positive changes and will be conscientious in planning your treatment.

There may be no real advantage in seeing a clinical psychologist versus a psychologist. However, seeing a clinical psychologist does guarantee a few things. Namely, they definitely will have completed a postgraduate degree in Clinical Psychology. A clinical psychologist will also have completed a registrar program, which requires two years of post-study work experience with intense supervision and professional development (Note, a registrar program can also be completed in other areas of psychology, such as counselling psychology). A clinical psychologist also attracts approximately a $40 higher Medicare rebate. However, most practices set their fees accordingly, so the gap fee remains the same whether you see a psychologist or clinical psychologist.

So, what’s the main difference between a clinical psychologist and psychologist?

The key difference between a clinical psychologist and a psychologist is their postgraduate qualifications. A clinical psychologist will have studied a Master’s or Doctorate in Clinical Psychology; whereas a psychologist may have studied one of a number of varying postgraduate degrees, including: Professional Psychology, Educational and Developmental Psychology, Counselling, Neuropsychology, Health Psychology and Criminal Psychology. Occasionally, psychologists will have completed an internship after completing their undergraduate degree.

All of these degrees focus on different parts of psychology, which is mostly evident in their names. Clinical Psychology has a more intense focus on assessment and prepares graduates for work with psychiatric patients (as well as more general mental health problems). Whereas, for example, Educational and Developmental Psychology, focuses on child and adolescent mental health, early intervention, and comprehensive cognitive and developmental assessments.

While different degrees focus on different areas of psychology, they only form one part of a psychologist’s competencies. Another big part of what influences a psychologist’s competency in particular areas of mental health, is the focus of their work experience.

So, how do you find a good psychologist for you?

A good psychologist is best found by searching for someone who is:

  • Experienced in the area you’re seeking help for;
  • Kind and warm;
  • And able to reflect a deep understanding of your difficulties

For a full guide on how to find a good psychologist, read blog post How to Find a Good Psychologist in Melbourne.


What are the differences in costs and rebates for clinical psychologists versus psychologists?

Insurance and rebates:

Medicare Rebates:

In Australia, individuals can access psychological services subsidised by Medicare. However, the rebate amount differs depending on whether you see a clinical psychologist or a general psychologist.

  • Clinical Psychologists: Individuals seeing a clinical psychologist can receive a higher Medicare rebate than seeing a general psychologist. This is because clinical psychologists have undergone additional training in the field of clinical psychology, which is an area of psychology focused on more severe and complex mental health.
  • General Psychologists: The rebate to see a generalist psychologist is roughly $40 lower than the rebate to see a clinical psychologist. The lower rebate does mean that the out-of-pocket expense may be higher compared to seeing a clinical psychologist, however, this also depends on the fees set by the practice – some practices charge higher fees to see a clinical psychologist. 

It’s essential to note that to access Medicare rebates, you need a Mental Health Treatment Plan from a GP, which allows up to 10 subsidised sessions per calendar year. You may also be entitled to access an Eating Disorder Treatment Plan (EDP), which allows up to 40 rebatable sessions in 12 months. 

Private Health Insurance:

  • Clinical Psychologists: Some private health insurance plans offer higher rebates for sessions with a clinical psychologist. It’s important to check your specific policy to understand what you’re entitled to.
  • General Psychologists: Insurance policies may also cover sessions with general psychologists, but the rebate amount can vary. Ensure that you check with your insurance provider for precise details on your coverage.

Coverage Details:

  • Check your policy: Not all private health insurance policies cover psychological services, and coverage can vary significantly between different plans. It’s essential to thoroughly check your policy or speak to your insurance provider to understand what is covered.
  • Extras cover: Psychological services are typically included under ‘extras’ cover. Look for policies that offer a good amount of coverage for psychological or counselling services.

How to Claim:

  • Rebates: After paying for your session, you can claim a rebate from your insurance provider. The process for claiming and the amount you get back will depend on your specific policy.
  • Limits and Waiting Periods: Be aware of any annual limits on how much you can claim for psychological services, as well as any waiting periods that might apply when you first take out or upgrade your insurance.

Choosing between Medicare and Private Health Insurance:

It’s important to note that you usually cannot claim Medicare and private health insurance for the same appointment, and that Medicare usually provides a higher rebate than private health insurance. Therefore, most people tend to claim their sessions through Medicare first, before claiming via Private Health insurance. However, it’s best to check these things with your private health insurer before commencing therapy. 

Out-of-Pocket Expenses:

The difference in rebates doesn’t always translate to a significant difference in out-of-pocket expenses, as many practices adjust their fees accordingly. It’s important to have a clear conversation about fees and rebates with your psychologist or their administrative staff before commencing therapy. 

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help in finding a good psychologist for you?

We are a team of Hawthorn, Armadale and Prahran psychologists with varying experience across different areas of mental health. All of our psychologists share some essential qualities: Our psychologists are warm, conscientious, and professional. We match all new clients to a psychologist who suits your needs and personality. As part of the matching process, we sometimes consider whether postgraduate training in clinical psychology would benefit the individual, especially if a comprehensive assessment is required or in cases of significant complexity. We currently have a team of over 45 psychologists, with 16 psychologists who are clinical psychologists and 14 who are completing their registrar program. Though this can change over time as people complete their clinical registrar program and obtain clinical endorsement. 

If you’d like to know more about seeing a psychologist for the first time, read our blog post Seeking Psychology Help for the First Time, otherwise contact us today if you’re ready to book an appointment and be professionally matched.