Clinical Psychologist vs. Registered Psychologist – What’s the Difference?

When you book an appointment at a psychology clinic, you’ll usually choose your psychologist from a selection of clinical and registered psychologists. So, what’s the difference between the two?

By the end of 2021, there were more than 10,700 clinical psychologists in Australia, and 31,430 registered psychologists. Both have the same foundation of training, and are able to provide therapeutic psychology services. However, there is a difference between the two – which is what we’ll outline below in this article.

Registered Psychologist vs. Clinical Psychologist – Are They the Same?

While some might use these terms interchangeably, no – they are not the same thing. 

A clinical psychologist specialises in clinical psychology as their area of practice. Meanwhile, registered psychologists, also known as ‘general’ psychologists, are qualified mental health professionals who can provide counselling and therapy and work in any area of psychology within their scope of practice. 

A general or registered psychologist is a psychologist who has received their full registration from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). A clinical psychologist has completed additional accredited education and training to specialise in an endorsed area of specialised practice – i.e. clinical psychology. 

All registered psychologists can apply for areas of practice endorsement, which include:

  • Clinical psychology
  • Clinical neuropsychology
  • Community psychology
  • Counselling psychology
  • Educational and developmental psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Organisational psychology
  • Sport and exercise psychology

All psychologists with an extra endorsement will have undertaken additional training and university requirements to obtain that title. 

While general and clinical psychologists are both considered ‘registered’ professionals, they are not the same, with several areas of distinction. 

Research Focus

Compared to general psychologists, clinical psychologists are involved in mental health research to a greater degree, participating in program development, evaluation, teaching, and supervision. They may also be involved in designing and implementing treatment strategies in clinical settings like primary care and psychiatric and rehabilitation settings.

Education and Training

Becoming a registered psychologist requires completing a four-year university degree and either a postgraduate degree or two years of supervised practical training, coming to six total years of study.

Clinical psychologists, meanwhile, complete six years of tertiary study and at least two years of supervised practical training, also known as a registrar program, requiring a minimum of eight years of study.

Pricing and Rebates

Given that clinical psychologists have more extensive degree requirements and qualifications, it would be a fair assumption that they charge more for their services. Indeed, most clinics charge higher fees for clinical psychologists than general psychologists. 

However, clinical psychologists also attract a higher Medicare rebate, so your gap fee should remain similar, regardless of whether you visit a clinical or registered psychologist.

Under the Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative, clinical psychologists can provide a Medicare rebate of $137.05 per session, and registered psychologists can provide a rebate of $93.35 per session. 

At New Vision Psychology, this means that the gap fee for a clinical psychologist is $142.95 and $146.65 for a registered psychologist.

Service Areas and Clientele

Both registered and clinical psychologists may work in various settings such as public hospitals, community mental health services, government departments, schools, research centres, universities, non-government mental health services and private practice. In private practice, clinical and registered psychologists often do similar types of work, offering a wide range of assessments and treatments.

While there is no discernable difference between the availability and demand of clinical vs. registered psychologists, some people with more severe or complex mental health problems may want to seek the help of a clinical psychologist. Meanwhile, registered psychologists work with individuals across a wide range of age groups and demographics, addressing various mental health concerns from mild to severe.

Registered vs. Clinical Psychologist – Which Is Right for You?

The relationship between patient and psychologist significantly impacts the outcomes of your mental health treatment plan, so it’s essential to book an appointment with one that suits your needs.

Clinical psychologists may be particularly beneficial if:

  • Your condition is complex or particularly difficult to diagnose
  • You are having suicidal ideas or plans
  • You aren’t responding well to treatment from another mental health professional

In most cases, a registered psychologist can meet your needs, as they are trained to provide assessments, treatment, and diagnoses across a diverse range of mental health issues.

Final Recommendations

Understanding the distinctions between registered and clinical psychologists can help you make an informed decision when seeking support for your mental health. 

Ultimately, whether you go with a clinical or general psychologist is up to you. Both will provide you with quality care, psychological treatment, and tailored guidance, with no difference in professionalism or compassion. Perhaps what’s more important is the trust and rapport you have with your psychologist, as a strong therapeutic alliance has been proven to enhance treatment outcomes.

At New Vision Psychology, we have over 30  clinical and registered psychologists available to see you at our five Sydney clinics, including our Castle Hill, Chatswood, Hurstville, Burwood, and Sydney CBD clinics. It’s our priority to match you with the best psychologist for your needs, as the “right fit” will improve your treatment outcomes. If you need assistance booking your appointment or choosing your psychologist, please use our personalised psychologist matching tool or speak to our friendly intake team at 1300 001 778.

Looking for a Psychologist near you?

New Vision Psychology can help.