Difference Between a Counsellor, a Psychologist, a Psychiatrist and a Life Coach

Who to turn to for mental health therapy in Singapore

Text: Sam Y

If a part of our body is hurting or in pain, we all know we should see a doctor. But when it’s our head that’s having health issues, or consistently feeling sad, it’s difficult to know exactly who turn to. Doctors can still help, but it’s likely they’ll talk to you about counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists and life coaches. Each one is qualified to provide guidance and support for mental wellbeing, but they do so using different expertly approved methods, techniques and talking therapies. By identifying the right person for you, the sooner you’ll return to optimum health and wellbeing. Here, ishonest breaks down the differences between these important roles so that you can get the right help for you:


Research the definition of ‘counsel’ and you’ll find it means ‘to give advice or instruction in an effort to help or direct’. This is precisely the function of a counsellor. Counsellors are there to help you with problem-solving, and working through short-term issues such as the aftermath of a difficult relationship, handling grief or self-esteem issues or adjusting to new changes in life. If you need a listening ear and a few wise words, or if the issue you’re facing is one that is seemingly temporary and does not stem from deeper psychological trauma or mental health issue, then a counsellor is for you.


Going a step further than simply providing wise counsel, a psychologist is someone who can assess and diagnose a mental health disorder by through running specific tests. Unlike a counsellor, they’ve studied the human mind and mental illnesses more extensively, and are able to help individuals who are suffering from more serious mental health issues using psychotherapy and depression treatments. A psychologist is not able to prescribe medication as a psychiatrist would be able to. If you suffer from mild depression and anxiety and don’t require medication, you might want to see a psychologist as these conditions do not always require drugs.


If you suffer from severe mental health issues like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, seeing a psychiatrist would be beneficial. Psychiatrists are doctors who have received further education and training on how to diagnose and treat these issues. They can prescribe the right medication to treat your problems, and they often work hand-in-hand with psychologists to provide psychotherapy and medication to those who suffer from mental health conditions.

Life Coach

Similar to counsellors, life coaches handle plenty of problem-solving. Much like how a coach refines the ability of each of his team members in order to create stellar results, a coach helps you to get rid of self-limiting thoughts through directing you on the right path. They give you the support to make necessary changes in your life to get to where you want to be. A life coach would be the perfect person to see if you feel stuck in a rut and need someone to help you identify areas in your life that require change in order to achieve your goals.

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