What is the Difference Between a Master’s in Psychology and a Master’s in Counseling Psychology?

Psychology is like most fields in that it’s gotten much more specialized over the last two decades. In the past, a student might have been able to pursue just a general degree in psychology without having to worry about choosing a focus area. That has changed, though, and today’s psychology students have plenty of options at their disposal. With that in mind, one of the most popular specialized degrees is the master’s in counseling psychology. For people who want to work in some form of therapy, the counseling master’s is a great choice that can provide immediate and long-term benefits. It is important to recognize the critical differences between the two degree fields.

Psychology is About More Than Just Counseling Individuals

In order to understand the difference between these two degrees, one must first understand that the psychology field is very large and diverse. Psychology is really just the study of the human mind and human behavior. This means that psychology students can study the human mind in a number of different ways and for a number of different purposes. Some will go on to do clinical psychology, where they study trends and produce academic literature. Others might choose industrial psychology, a role in which they will work with businesses to produce the best results. A general psychology degree will give a student the ability to do all of these things. A master’s in counseling psychology will focus on the specifics of working with actual human clients.

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A Master’s in Psychology Covers Concepts

Today’s students often get to choose between very general and very specific degree fields. A master’s in psychology will cover the general concepts that govern all parts of this discipline. Rather than learning specific skills, you will spend your time learning the building blocks that will allow you to later learn specific skills. This means that students can expect to spend a lot of time in their books when they embark on a more general degree path. In a counseling psychology degree program, an individual might do more practical work geared toward one-on-one counseling.

Counseling Psychology and Specific Skills

The best counseling psychology programs prepare their students to work individually with clients. You might do a number of externships and practicums in order to gain those skills. In addition, many teachers will require their students to show off skills in interesting classroom exercises. The entire program is geared around helping people. A counselor might deal with people who have a host of different disorders, from addiction problems to mental illness. If you enroll in one of these programs, you can expect to spend a lot of time with the DSM-IV. This book lists all of the major disorders, and students will learn how to diagnose and treat them.

Counseling Psychology Degrees for Students Who Know What They Want

When deciding which master’s program to choose, you must do some self-evaluation. If you know that you want to work one-on-one with people or families, then a counseling master’s might work well. If you aren’t quite sure what you’d like to do, then the general degree will serve you well.

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Further reading:
Top 15 Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs
About the Master’s in Counseling Degree