When it comes to seeking professional help for mental health concerns, the abundance of options can leave one bewildered. The journey towards emotional well-being often begins with a simple question: “Who should I turn to for help?”
As you embark on this path, the decision between a psychiatrist, psychologist or counsellor may seem overwhelming. Each profession offers unique skills, approaches, and areas of expertise, making this choice a critical one.
Most people use the words “psychiatrist”, “psychologist” and “counsellor” interchangeably. But while there is significant overlap in terms of job scope, there are also big differences.
Studies show that the most important factor in a healthy and healing therapeutic relationship is the trust that develops between client and practitioner. As such, with the mental health of so many people at stake, it is crucial that an effort be made to rectify any misconceptions.
- have completed a medical degree and can prescribe medication;
- can admit people to hospital if necessary;
- are trained to understand severe mental health issues from neurological, physiological and/or biological perspectives.
- focus on how people think, feel and behave;
- provide counselling services to individuals and/or families, as well as relationship counselling services;
- have completed a three-year undergraduate degree majoring in psychology and usually a fourth year of tertiary training;
- may have a further few years of postgraduate education and/or supervised practice, including a master’s or doctoral degree;
- are trained to help people become self-aware and understand their habits and triggers;
- may undergo special training to diagnose and assess people with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress or ADHD; family and relationship issues; plus habits and addictions, or anything that makes someone feel that life is becoming too difficult;
- can choose to receive an area of endorsement, or specific supervised training, in areas such as clinical neuropsychology, clinical psychology, educational and development psychology, and sports or exercise psychology, among others.
- are trained to use a “person-centred” approach, meaning they will listen to your concerns and form a plan with you to manage and improve your health and wellbeing;
- support people experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of mental illness, and aim to help people with the day-to-day practical concerns of life.
In short, psychologists are trained to assess and diagnose people with mild to severe mental health issues, while psychiatrists are able to prescribe medications. Both psychiatrists and psychologists understand how the brain works and can assist with various mental illnesses.
Counsellors, meanwhile, generally use a talk-therapy approach with their clients to help them through their struggles.
Finally, it’s important to note that counselling is not a regulated industry, which means, in theory, that anyone who completes a one-day online course can call themselves a counsellor.
As such, it’s important to check the qualifications of your prospective counsellor before making an appointment.
Read more articles by Dennis Relojo-Howell here.