The different types of “psy” in France

The distinction between  psychiatrist, psychologist, psychotherapist, psychoanalyst is very unclear to many people & the qualifications required even less clear which leads to confusion & uncertainty about whom to choose when seeking a “psy”.  

A psychologist is not qualified in medicine but has a degree in psychology.    In France, this is a protected title * and can only be used after obtaining a D.E.S.S. (Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures Spécialisées) or D.E.A (Diplôme d’Etudes Approffondies) in Psychology (minimum 5 years of university or equivalent). Psychologists  work in different fields (legal, social, personnel, education…..). A clinical psychologist usually works in the health sphere: he may work in a hospital or other health structures. He/she is usually trained in psychotherapy (behaviourist, psychoanalysis, Gestalt…..). A clinical psychologist or psychiatrist are the two professions trained in basic psychology i.e. a study of normal mental processes & behaviour and psychopathology.
The Psychologist is bound by the Code of Ethics for Psychologists (Code Déontologique des Psychologues).


A psychiatrist (Greek: psukho- breath, life, soul; iatros: healer) is a doctor, specialized in psychiatry. This is the branch of medicine, which studies disorders affecting thought, emotion & behaviour. A psychiatrist, therefore, is trained to diagnose & treat mental illness & disorder (schizophrenia, manic depression, psychoses…). As a doctor he/she prescribes medication for which the Sécurité Sociale may reimburse consultation fees. A psychiatrist may also be trained as a psychotherapist.

In France, ” psychotherapist” is not a title & at the moment not protected by law as, although a law has recently been passed, there is no decree of implementation yet. Anybody, therefore, can call himself or herself a psychotherapist  and certain psychotherapists have no basic, in-depth training in psychology.   Preferably qualified as a psychologist or psychiatrist, a psychotherapist  deals with psychological problems & difficulties & uses a therapeutical method he/she’s trained in.


The practise of psychoanalysis is not regulated in France. A psychoanalyst, usually a psychologist  or psychiatrist, has to have completed his/her own psychoanalysis.  Psychoanalysis is an in-depth psychotherapy working on unconscious processes & motivations which influence people’s behaviour, thus enabling one progressively to get rid of different blocks, complexes…. & to live more freely.  Often, a psychiatrist who offers psychoanalysis  does not prescribe medical treatment in his/her capacity as a psychoanalyst, in order not to mix the two.

Anyone in private practice must be declared with the URSAFF, be registered with the DDASS, have a SIRET & ADELI no. in order to work legally.   Joanna KALUZINSKA, Clinical Psychologist, Psychotherapist – Psychoanalyst,  D.E.S.S. de Psychologie Clinique et Pathologique,  Université de Paris VII. Copyright J.E.KALUZINSKA © 2004. All Rights Reserved.

* “Wrongful assumption of the title of “Psychologist” shall be punishable by the penalties imposed for the offence of wrongful assumption of a title provided for under Art.433-17 of the Criminal Code.”  *(“L’usurpation du titre de » Psychologue » est punie des peines encourues par le délit d’usurpation de titre prévu par l’art. 433-17 du Code Pénal. » )

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