The difference between Clinical, Counselling, and Educational Psychology:

For most parents, finding a psychologist to send their child to is a pretty daunting task.  This is often complicated even further by the lack of knowledge around the different disciplines and the apparent cross over between the services offered by each.

Who does what? And how do you know where to send your child?  I often get asked the following questions: Do Educational psychologists only deal with Educational matters?  Many Clinical psychologists work with children – do they do the same thing as an Educational Psychologist?  What is the difference between a Counselor, a Psychologist and a Counseling Psychologist?

The Health Professions Council uses the following comprehensive, but often difficult to understand, definitions:

Educational Psychology

Educational Psychologists are involved in assessment, diagnosis and intervention in order to optimise human functioning in the broad context of development and learning.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical Psychologists assess, diagnose and intervene with people in dealing with life challenges, particularly those with developmental and relatively serious forms of psychological distress and/or psychopathology.

Counselling Psychology

Counseling Psychologists assess, diagnose and intervene with people in dealing with life challenges and developmental problems to optimize psychological well- being.

Put very simply, the difference is as follows:

Educational psychologists specialize in working with children between the ages 2 years – 21 years and are involved in all psychological aspects (assessment and therapy) that may affect children in their learning or development to fully functioning, healthy, independent adults. Clinical psychologists will deal with relatively serious forms of psychological distress or psychopathology such as depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia, etc Counselling psychologists deal with relatively minor challenges and developmental problems of everyday life, such as adolescent angst or peer group difficulties, etc.

So, Educational psychologist do not only deal with educational matters such as assessments, advice on academic matters and referrals to appropriate schools etc, but also conduct playtherapy, individual therapy, group therapy and family therapy and parent guidance.  The help of an educational psychologists is usually employed to help children deal with:

  • changes is family structure such as divorce, death or the birth or adoption of a new sibling, introduction to a previously absent or unknown parent,etc;
  • trauma such a hi-jackings, burglaries, the death of a parent, etc
  • behaviour modification such as the reduction and prevention of temper tantrums, sibling rivalry, anti-social behaviour, etc.
  • socialization for children who are extremely reserved or have very little social skills
  • coping strategies, for children who have low a self-esteem or need extra help in learning to deal effectively with difficult circumstances
  • emotional education
  • education related assessments, placements, study skills, guidance


In the event that an Educational Psychologist suspects that a child is suffering from a serious problem or pathology (such as schizophrenia, depression, eating disorders) it would be more appropriate and ethical to refer the child to a Clinical Psychologist and by the same token, it would be more appropriate for a Clinical psychologist to refer difficulties regarding development, education and learning to an Educational Psychologist as this is our field of expertise.