You are here: Home » Health » Mental Health » Difference Between Social Work and Psychotherapy

Difference Between Social Work and Psychotherapy

Social work and psychotherapy differences

It’s common to hear social work and psychotherapy used interchangeably, but there are some major ways they differ. Social work is a career helping people cope with challenges in their lives, while psychotherapy is a form of treatment for mental illness. See more about psychotherapy on this site here.

While both fields strive to help others, they do so in different ways. The primary difference between the two is the licensing requirements involved after the vocational training. Most of these requirements can vary between jurisdictions, and some social workers focus more on the community as a whole instead of narrowly focusing on individuals with mental illnesses.

Different Types of Providers

Psychotherapy is done by a licensed mental health professional who practices with patients dealing with various mental health issues. They might include the ones suffering from compulsive behaviors, depression, anxiety, addiction, emotional distress, and many more. Most practitioners in the field may use cognitive-behavioral therapy or psychoanalysis to address most of the adverse behaviors and moods that a patient might feel.

There are marriage counselors, family therapists, psychologists, professional counselors, and many others who work in a clinic that provides these treatments. Some states require the experts to have a master’s degree, but they can use different titles. In Illinois, you can be a licensed professional counselor, but in California, you might have a marriage and family therapist title.

What are the Roles Involved in Social Work?

Social workers often work in the community to improve many families and people’s lives. They might belong to various organizations and agencies that advocate equality.

They are usually found in shelters, correctional facilities, schools, and healthcare clinics. Others undergo additional licensing and training to be called social workers. They can also provide psychotherapy and help treat various mental illnesses.

Educational Background

Some laws typically require both professionals to have a master’s degree. You can learn more about them on sites like and see more about their techniques, including marriage counseling, play therapy, EMDR, and more. Most professionals are required to complete a supervised practicum, pass an exam, and comply with the licensing requirements before they can operate.

Difference between Social Work and Psychotherapy

Social work or psychotherapy
Dreamstime royalty-free photo.

The main difference between social work and psychotherapy is the focus of each respective profession. The former focuses on providing direct services to clients in a community, while psychotherapy focuses on treating mental health disorders of individuals. Both professions require a high degree of empathy, compassion, and a deep understanding of human behavior.

While social workers may provide some counseling services, their primary focus is helping clients with practical needs such as finding housing or jobs. They also advocate for their clients, ensuring they have access to their needed resources.

Psychotherapists, on the other hand, focus primarily on treating mental health disorders through talk therapy. These experts help clients explore emotions and learn coping mechanisms to deal with difficult life experiences.

Both are vital professions that serve different yet important roles in society. By working together, social workers and psychotherapists can help individuals struggling with various issues achieve greater well-being.

Psychological Help

According to the APA, the field of psychology involves studying the human mind and learning more about how it can influence one’s behaviors. Clinical psychologists can work with a doctor and nurses to treat patients with mental health issues.

They have an advanced understanding of implementing techniques and interventions that can help people change for the better. Generally, they specialize in the following:

Social: The experts help people to be more comfortable in social settings and understand how everyone influences each other. They help understand the role of emotions, thoughts, and feelings at play in various social interactions.

Cognitive: This is an area that focuses on how many people process the information that they are receiving. Generally, they investigate how individuals learn or communicate to produce better results.

Developmental: The developmental scope of psychology is very expansive as it generally focuses on the study of humans from the time that they are babies until they become old.

Social Workers’ Roles

Most social workers try to enhance the way of living of many individuals in various communities. They are often focused on the impoverished, oppressed, and marginalized. They specialize in rural oppression, older people, child welfare, and more. They are employed by prisons, schools, and other institutions, and their treatments are often adapted on a case-by-case basis.

When is the Right Time to Seek Help from Both of them?

The decision to seek help from a social worker or psychotherapist can be difficult. There are many considerations, such as the severity of your problem, your ability to cope with the issues you’re experiencing on your own, and the cost of therapy.

If you are experiencing any of the following problems, you may want to seek help from a social worker or psychotherapist:

  • Feelings of inability to cope with your problem on your own.
  • The issue is impacting your work or school performance, as shown by low attendance, for example.
  • You turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with daily life, which may indicate a substance use disorder.
  • There are thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
  • Your family, friends, or someone else close urges you to seek help.

Social work is often involved in a wide range of services involving communities, while psychotherapy is usually more focused on mental health. However, the two are very similar, so an assessment is needed to know more about the patient’s needs. When the root cause is known, more effective and specific treatments can be administered, resulting in patient satisfaction.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Privacy & Cookie Policy
%d bloggers like this: