What is the Difference Between a Child Psychologist and a Child Therapist?

When you’re searching for a mental health professional for your child, you might find that the terms child psychologist and child therapist are often used interchangeably. Although they both strive for the same results, to improve a child’s life and mental health, a child psychologist and a child therapist are not the same. When it comes time to make an appointment for your child’s therapy needs, it’s important to understand which type of mental health professional is best suited to address your child’s needs.


Therapist vs. Psychologist By Definition

A psychologist is an individual who has been trained in, and practices, one or more types of therapy to treat mental illnesses. In the context of mental health, the term psychologist is often used synonymously with psychotherapists. In particular, a child psychologist specializes in working with children. Child psychologists are trained to conduct tests that diagnose neurodevelopmental conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, and learning difficulties such as ADHD. 

Your child might benefit from seeing a psychologist if:

  • You think your child might have a condition that affects his/her learning, such as ADHD, or impairs his/her social skills such as in Autism Spectrum Disorder. 
  • Your child needs support to manage emotional or behavioral problems.
  • You would like a more detailed diagnosis for your child, and a full picture of all the factors that might influence your child’s mental health.
  • One of your goals for therapy is to determine what changes your school can make to better support your child.

The term therapist serves as an umbrella term for all professions within the area of psychotherapy (such as counselors, social workers, etc.). While they do not provide a diagnosis, therapists do provide rehabilitation and treatment to people with mental or behavioral health issues, as well as those who are simply dealing with the daily struggles of their lives. 


Your child might benefit from seeing a therapist if:

  • They need emotional support and someone to talk to about their feelings
  • They’re struggling with anxiety, depression, anger, or major life changes such as divorce or death
  • You’d like help figuring out how to get along better with your child, especially if he/she exhibits problematic behaviors
  • You’d like to meet with someone on a regular basis, and you’re not looking for help with medication


All psychologists are therapists but not all therapists are psychologists. For example, a psychologist with a PhD is a therapist who has had years of graduate school to be trained as a social scientist, so they can also perform research and assessments.

child therapist vs child psychologist comparison


Child Therapist vs. Child Psychologist Comparison

Child Psychologists:

A psychologist is a social scientist who is trained to study human behavior and mental processes. Psychologists can work in a variety of research or clinical settings. Psychology degrees are available at all levels: bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate (PhD or PsyD). Advanced degrees and licensing are required for those in independent practice or who offer patient care, including clinical, counseling and school psychologists.

  • Have an advanced degree, such as a PhD or PsyD, in psychology
  • May conduct research
  • Diagnose mental illness, disorders, or problems in their patients/clients
  • Determine treatment plans based on observations and clinical diagnoses and 
  • Often work together with a psychiatrist or other medical professionals
  • Help children make decisions and clarify feelings
  • Provide support and guidance to children and their families


Child Therapist:

A therapist is a broader umbrella term for professionals who are trained, and often licensed, to provide a variety of treatments and rehabilitation for people. A therapist’s goal is to help patients make decisions and clarify their feelings in order to solve problems. Therapists provide support and guidance, while helping patients make effective decisions within the overall structure of support.

  • May have an advanced degree, depending on their speciality
  • Helps children make decisions and clarify feelings
  • Provide support and guidance to children and their families


Be Psychology 

At Be Psychology, our team of therapists and psychologists are trained to help treat both children and adults with any mental health concerns. If you or a loved one are in need of testing, assessments, or psychotherapy, we can help.


Contact a member of our team to schedule your appointment today. 


reem shaheen counseling psychologist


Reem Shaheen – LMHC