What is Psychotherapy?
Psychiatrists and psychologists are mental health professionals with different training, skills, and expertise. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who evaluates, diagnoses, and treats mental illness. A psychologist has training in psychology – the scientific study of the mind and counseling skills to help people to deal with life’s daily stresses.
In all the confusion, it is no wonder many people find it hard to know whether they need a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Which professional should they see when they are having mental health issues? What exactly do psychiatrists and psychologists do? How are these professionals different? And what services do they offer those other types of mental health professionals do not provide?
So, what does all this mean? It means you may not be sure which professional to see or where to find them. If you are looking for help with a mental health condition, we can help. Here, you will find an overview of the differences between psychiatrists and psychologists, along with some advice on how to find the right one to meet your needs.
Where to Start
If you are dealing with depression or anxiety, these are issues that you may not want to deal with on your own. Issues with mental health, especially if they are chronic (persistent or recurring often), can be debilitating. Your body can respond physically to depression or anxiety much like it does to physical illness.
If you are having emotional or mental health problems, your doctor may ask about your symptoms, how long you have been having them, and whether they are constant or come and go. To find out what kind of treatment might help you, your doctor will also ask questions about your life and any physical health problems that could be causing your symptoms.
Types of Mental Health Professionals
Mental health professionals help people manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Each type of mental health professional works in a different way. Read more to learn about the most common types of mental health professionals.
Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are the medical doctors (M.D. or D.O.) most specifically trained to address mental, emotional, and behavioral health concerns. They have four years of medical school followed by a one-year internship and three years of specialized training as psychiatric residents. Psychiatrists are trained to differentiate mental health problems from other underlying medical conditions that could present with psychiatric symptoms and monitor the effects of mental illnesses on physical conditions and the effects of medicines on the body.
As a medical doctor, I have a license to write prescriptions. Many mental disorders can be treated effectively with specific drugs. Medication management is usually part of the treatment plan, but medication alone may not be enough. A psychiatrist can also provide psychotherapy or refer you to another counselor or therapist.
Psychologist: A clinical psychologist is a licensed professional (Ph.D., PsyD, or EdD) that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses, emotional and behavioral disorders, and psychological conditions. A clinical psychologist will take a comprehensive approach to help her patients improve their lives by addressing their physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.
Licensed and trained in the science of behavior, psychologists are mental health professionals who assess, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Psychology is concerned with human thought and behavior, with emphasis on such topics as cognition, perception, personality growth, development, and psychotherapy.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor: Licensed Mental Health Counselors are qualified to evaluate and treat mental problems by providing counseling or psychotherapy. When you hire a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, you can be sure that the counselor has met the minimum requirements for education, experience, and training. Most mental health counselors have a master’s degree (MA) in psychology, counseling or a related field, or a doctorate (Ph.D.).
Clinical Social Worker: Clinical social workers specialize in the assessment, treatment, and evaluation of mental and emotional disorders. Clinical Social Workers have a master’s degree in social work (MSW) and are considered to be one of the most qualified mental health professionals. They can provide psychotherapy for clients as well as case management and hospital discharge planning.
Psychiatric or Mental Health Nurse: Psychiatric or mental health nurses specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of problems relating to mood, anxiety, and thought processes. They are often involved with patients with acute symptoms who need crisis intervention. Psychiatric nurses also help patients suffering from chronic conditions such as personality disorders, substance abuse, and dementia.
The Difference Between Counseling and Psychotherapy
Counseling and psychotherapy are often used interchangeably, but they are two different things. Counseling focuses on specific issues and is designed to help a person address a particular problem, such as addiction or stress management. The focus may be on problem-solving or on learning specific techniques for coping with or avoiding problem areas.
The difference between counseling and psychotherapy is that counseling typically focuses on a specific problem or difficulty that you are facing at the time, while psychotherapy attempts to help a person change patterns of thinking and behavior that may have been developed over many years or even decades. Psychotherapy is most beneficial for people with long-term mental health disorders, as opposed to someone who simply needs assistance coping with a difficult time in their life.
Know the Types of Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy is a general term for treating mental health issues through talking with a trained therapist. The goal is to help you feel better and manage stress, anxiety, depression, or other issues. There are many different types of psychotherapy, each with its method and approach. Some work with individuals while others focus on families or couples.
Psychoanalytic or Psychodynamic therapies: Psychoanalytic therapy or psychodynamic therapy is a form of treatment that works on the basis of using psychological insight to resolve conflicts within the mind. The aim is to break down the person’s unconscious conflicts and gain insight into the root cause of their problems. The process involves exploring thoughts, dreams, and memories so that the patient is aware of their unconscious motives and drives.
Behavioral Therapy: Behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy focused on helping individuals change unhealthy or maladaptive behaviors. Through the use of reinforcement, punishment, and stimulus control, behavioral therapists help their clients teach new associations that replace their old, maladaptive patterns.
Cognitive Therapy: Cognitive therapy is a type of psychotherapy that aims to change people’s patterns of thinking to effect positive change in a person’s emotions and behaviors. The goal is for the person to recognize unhealthy thinking patterns and how they may lead to negative moods and self-defeating behaviors. Then, with the help of a trained professional, the patient learns how to identify these unhealthy thoughts and replace them with healthier ones.
Group Therapy: Group therapy is a great way for patients to share their experiences with each other, and is a great way to get support. This will also help with building a sense of community.
Humanistic Therapy: Humanistic therapy believes that people can make rational choices and develop their maximum potential. The person is seen as the authority on what is going on inside.
Integrative or Holistic Therapy: Integrative therapy is the integration of multiple approaches to therapy based on the client’s individual needs. Cognitive-behavioral therapy combines two individual therapies and focuses on both thought and behavior.
Getting Started With a Mental Health Professional
Finding the right mental health professional to fit your needs can be a challenge. While many people see a general practitioner for medical issues, others may prefer to see a therapist or psychologist. When seeking out services from a mental health professional, it is important to ask questions about their experience and approach before making an appointment.
The first meeting is an opportunity to find a treatment approach that matches your needs and style. It gives you a chance to meet in person and talk about the kinds of problems you are experiencing, what brought you in for therapy, how you want to work together, and how the treatment will progress. You will also have an opportunity to ask any questions that jump into your mind. Give yourself plenty of time to make it through the entire appointment so that you can leave with a full understanding of the potential benefits and pitfalls of therapy as well as what kinds of issues might arise along the way.
Do not be discouraged if you feel awkward and uncomfortable at first. It will take time for you to get used to the therapy process, and you need to help your therapist to make it work as well as possible. If after three visits you feel that things just are not working out, let your therapist know why. The two of you will have a better chance of getting the most out of your treatment if there are no surprises down the road.
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