Difference Between Different Helping Professionals

Posted On: July 19, 2023

Difference Between Different Helping ProfessionalsResharing here ‘coz I had a friend ask me about the difference between coach, counselor, psychologist, and therapist again today. Since this wasn’t the first time this same person asked me, I realised it must be just as confusing for many people as it was for me many years ago:

  • Coach – Focuses on supporting someone to break down their goals into small attainable steps. Yet just because someone has coaching skills doesn’t mean they have specific subject matter knowledge e.g. fitness, health, sex (additional training required). Coaching is not regulated in Singapore (and often beyond). Anybody can call themselves a coach even if they’ve had no training whatsoever! ICF (International Coach Federation) is a well-recognised accreditation body – and I also have ICF ACC status. I used to call myself a Sex Coach before I got my Masters in Counseling.
  • Counselor – They support clients to identify emotions as a guide to what clients should do for themselves moving forward. They usually possess Masters in counseling. I have a Masters in Counseling and I sometimes call myself a Sex Counselor to keep things simple for some clients.
  • Psychologist – Usually have a Masters in Psychology. Very much focused on how or why people think a certain way regardless of what approach they use. Sex therapists usually have a Masters in Psychologist AND a certificate in sex therapy (and I cannot and do not call myself a Sex Therapist but a Sexologist even though I have a cert in sex therapy).
  • Therapist vs therapy – Anybody can say they are doing therapy (helping others) but nobody should call themselves a therapist if they don’t have the credentials e.g. sound therapy vs sound therapist. One should be suspicious if they claim they do this or that therapy yet not state clearly where they got their training from. Hence, I can say I do sex therapy, but I cannot say I am a sex therapist (again I repeat: I do not have a psychology degree).

Over the years, the media have understandably repeatedly and mistakenly called me and other less accredited people in Singapore sex therapists when we are not. This mislabeling is irrelevant to man-on-the-street and makes no difference to them, but we, the practitioners ourselves, who know should know and do better.

At the end of the day, it’s less what one practitioner calls themselves (job title) but rather the importance of looking into the training they have had as an indicator of whether they have any knowledge or creditability in what they are doing or saying.

I said this to my friend: “Popular therapists aren’t necessarily qualified, and these popular therapists aren’t necessarily bad either.”

With all that said, it is just the START of assessing whether one practitioner is suitable for you. Besides qualifications, there are other things to consider: duration of practice, specialisation, continuing education, supervision, affiliation with governing body (and adherence to their code of ethics), testimonials, empathy, fee, availability, location, values, modalities, etc.

On that note, I had a certain person repeatedly question whether I “deserve respect” just because I have four degrees on my TikTok account. I’ve often found that it is people without qualifications or any degree of their own who are especially antagonistic towards those who do.

I think ALL people deserve respect, and ALL people who went into considerable effort to get training deserve respect. As a woman on social media getting flaked for daring to talk openly about sex much less claim to specialise in sex and sexuality, when I ask for respect… I’m asking for it as a professional who does this for a living.

I’m not using my four degrees over you (not a better human than you), but do give me some benefit of doubt that I am speaking in my professional capacity (subject matter knowledge) and seek to understand what I’m talking about before attacking me. I welcome questions and discussions, but I don’t deserve rudeness, abuse, or attacks – and do block people without further explanations (and have unwittingly blocked even colleagues in the past because I am extremely conflict-averse).

You can read what you like, follow who you resonate with, and believe what you want… while my only intention is to contribute some value to my followers.

Check out my credentials here. If you have relationship and sexuality concerns, do contact me here.

Written: 7 December 2022

About Dr. Martha Tara Lee

Surrounded by friends who were sexually inhibited and struck by dire lack of positive conversations around sex and sexuality in Singapore, Dr. Martha Tara Lee set out to make a positive difference in embarking on her doctorate in human sexuality before launching Eros Coaching in 2009. Today, she remains dedicated to working with individuals and couples who wish to lead self-actualised and pleasure-filled lives.

She also holds certificates in counselling, coaching and sex therapy, and her fourth degree – a Masters in Counselling in May 2018. In practice since 2009, she is the only certified sexuality educator and certified sexuality educator supervisor by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) in Singapore.

Often cited in the media, Dr. Lee is the appointed Resident Sexologist for Singapore Cancer Society, and Ofnoah.sg and Ofzoey.com. She was recognised as one of ‘Top 50 Inspiring Women Under 40′ by Her World in July 2010, and one of ‘Top 100 Inspiring Women’ by CozyCot in March 2011. She has published four books: Love, Sex and Everything In-BetweenOrgasmic YogaFrom Princess to Queen and {Un}Inhibited.

Martha works with individuals and couples in private coaching sessions, and conducts her own workshops. She takes prides in making sure all her workshops are also fun, educational, and sex-positive. This comes easily to her because even though she is extremely dedicated and serious about her work, she fundamentally believes that sex is meant to be fun, wonderful, amazing and sacred. As such, this serious light-heartedness has shone through again and again. For her full profile, click here. Email her here.



Eroscoaching Logo

Get sex tips straight in your mailbox!