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Psychology and psychotherapy may sound alike, but they are actually two completely different things. Psychology is a branch of science devoted to the study of the mind and its impact on human behavior. Psychotherapy is a process of treatment that employs the theories developed from psychology research. The treatments rely on talking to patients in accordance with some specific communication techniques, rather than on using medications, although some patients may require both talk therapy and medicinal treatment.
The key difference between psychology and psychotherapy is that psychology — which is theoretical — can exist without the applied psychotherapy, but it doesn’t work the other way around. Psychotherapy only exists because of the lessons learned through the science of studying the mind. All of its practices are based on evidence garnered through years of research. As the research continues, psychotherapy changes to adapt to new discoveries and methods of treatment. For example, when researchers found a link between anger and anxiety, psychotherapy changed to include discussing ways to manage anger to help treat patients with anxiety disorder.
Another major difference between psychology and psychotherapy is that psychology is a much broader field. Not only do researchers study the link between the mind and behavior, but also the role that society, upbringing, and other external factors play on the overall personality of a person. Psychotherapy is also a broad field, but its sole focus is on helping individuals overcome or prevent particular behavior patterns.
The training required to become a psychologist differs from that required to practice psychotherapy. Psychologists typically undergo at least four years of training, and must earn doctoral degrees, while most continue on to higher degree levels before working in the field. Psychotherapists, on the other hand, do not have to hold a specific degree in psychology to work in the field. They may be licensed social workers or other types of professionals. Typically, they have to pass a licensing exam to practice, but rules vary from place to place.
Psychology and psychotherapy are disciplines that do overlap and inform each other. A psychologist can choose to work with patients instead of in the research field, in which case they may practice effectively the same way that psychotherapists do. Psychotherapists can also choose to work in a research capacity alongside psychologists, helping to develop new theories about human behavior. The fact that psychotherapists work closely with patients actually puts them at an advantage, as they can see how new theories or treatment protocols work up close.