Difference Between Clinical and Registered Psychologists

If you’re looking for a registered psychologist in Calgary, you may have wondered about what to expect. After all, there are several types of psychologists. Unless you’re someone with a keen interest in this field, you may fail to tell some of the differences that make one stand out from the rest.

Who is a Psychologist?

Among the many health care professionals, psychologists are probably the ones with what many people would consider a less clearly-defined work. A psychologist is a person trained to handle and address mental health issues. When most people think of health care, only doctors and nurses come to mind. However, health is both the absence of disease conditions and sound mental health. Psychologists play a crucial role in ensuring that people with mental and emotional concerns don’t worsen and other serious conditions remain untreated.

There are several types of psychologists. These include;

i) Clinical Psychologists: This is the type of psychologist that most people associate with this profession. These are the kinds that work directly with clients. Depending on specific situations, clinical psychologists can work with different types of clients or in particular settings. Clinical Psychologists are able to also determine a mental health diagnosis which for many individuals, can help to validate one’s personal experience.

ii) Counselling Psychologist: When it comes to helping people deal with their mental and emotional health, counselling can be an effective remedy, among other things. Here, these kinds of psychologists help such clients to get better results by helping them make sense of their specific situations and ways of dealing with them. This experience often allows individuals to gain insight and awareness into their lives.

iii) Cognitive Neuropsychologists: Sometimes individuals may have memory and learning issues. These types of psychologists can help to address such problems by helping individuals develop skills to harness their recall powers and problem-solving skills, among others.

iv) Educational Psychologists: These psychologists study how people retain knowledge, right from the initial learning process. In this way, they help improve learning by focusing on teaching and learning processes and how to optimise them.

v) Industrial-Organizational Psychologists: Modern corporate environments present several challenges, one of which is ensuring high employee productivity and a generally conducive work environment. An industrial-organisational psychologist assesses all the things that could impact employee performance and how they all factor into the bigger picture.

vi) Military Psychologists: Being in the armed forces can be very stressful. Whether for a combat soldier or their loved ones, things like morale and mental health are essential. A military psychologist helps members of the military and their families to cope with all these things. They can also be employed to handle things like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a common thing among troops returning from war.

Clinical vs Registered Psychologists

All the different types of psychologists can be grouped into two broad categories; clinical psychologists and registered ones.

A general psychologist is anyone who has undergone the necessary training and acquired the education to become one. Typically, this involves getting an undergraduate degree in psychology. This type of psychologist is referred to as a general one because they can work in a wide variety of settings in which the study of human behaviour and all its different aspects are involved.

A clinical psychologist is one who treats clients directly typically using evidence based modalities that support the individuals desire for change . For instance, someone that has suffered a traumatic event in their lives might need counselling and professional support to help them heal from the symptoms of trauma.. A counselling psychologist is best equipped to handle this. In this scenario, the counselling psychologist is a clinical one. Similarly, a psychologist that works at a health care facility is also a clinical one because their work puts them in direct contact with clients and their treatment team.

Technically, a general psychologist tends to work more like a general practitioner, dabbling in many aspects of psychology while a clinical psychologist is more specialised—helping clients deal with specific issues.

A key difference between the two broad types of psychologists is their education.

Pathway to Becoming a Psychologist

Becoming a psychologist is one of those gruelling academic paths that only a few people choose. This is because it takes years of study and training before getting registered to practice. 

Regardless of whether one wants to be a clinical psychologist or a general one, it all begins with an undergraduate degree. This degree program takes four years of full-time study to complete.

For a general psychologist, the route usually involves an additional 2 years of supervised training. In some cases, a student may opt for a 5-year undergraduate program with an additional year of supervised internship.

A clinical psychologist in training begins with a similar 4-year undergraduate program. However, given that these types of psychologists will focus on dealing with client issues, they’ll need to do a master’s program. This postgraduate enables them to get further experience and knowledge. An additional 2 years of the supervised internship will top it off. This means that anyone wishing to practice clinical psychology can expect about 8 years of study from the moment they enrol in the undergraduate program.

It’s crucial to remember that during the postgraduate and internship phases, the student is expected to engage in clinical professional development as well as other certification efforts to bolster their knowledge. This makes studying psychology a very challenging endeavour, both in terms of time and effort. It’s not uncommon for a psychology postgraduate student to be expected to log in at least 300 hours or more of client contact hours. This is in addition to their regular curriculum and other professional development endeavours.


Many people going into psychology studies prefer to become clinical psychologists. This is due to a growing (and misguided) belief that clinical psychology is the “real” psychology because of its client-centered approach. However, as an expert in the field can attest, all branches of psychology are crucial for the well-being of society. While some settings are more suited to the practice of specific branches of psychology, that does not negate the importance of the other branches.

All in all, the difference between clinical and registered general psychologists comes down to their training and scope of work.

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