It is not easy to set yourself apart in the virtual world, so I am going to do my best by showcasing my skills in a series of blog posts. This introductory series covers various topics related to initiating counselling and psychotherapy.
This post aims to help people understand the different options of mental health practitioners.
For those not employed in the field of mental health, it can be difficult to know what kind of professional you need to see.
The names are so similar that few can tell them apart and fewer still know which one they need to see.
If you have thought about seeking mental health support but feel overwhelmed by the options, read on. This post is intended to help you understand the difference so you can find the best help for you.
We will start with the medical doctors. Psychiatrists will have a bachelor’s degree and then a medical degree and then a specialization in psychiatric medicine.
Psychiatrists are where you go when you are in need of psychiatric assessments to obtain psychiatric diagnoses and prescriptions for psychiatric medication.
Psychiatrists are qualified and capable of delivering psychotherapy but I am not sure how often this is a service they actually provide.
A psychologist will also have a bachelor’s degree along with a master's and sometimes even a doctorate in psychology. Psychology is the study of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and these people have studied it thoroughly.
Where psychiatrists diagnose mental health disorders and treat with medications, psychologists diagnose disordered thinking, feeling or behaving and treat with a variety of psychotherapies.
Psychotherapists focus their practice on delivering the treatment of psychotherapy. We do not make diagnoses, prescribe medication, or administer tests (note: tests are different from assessments.)
Professionals authorized to deliver psychotherapy include physicians and psychologists but also registered psychotherapists, registered nurses (which I am - a nurse psychotherapist), social workers, occupational therapists, and social service workers
Each professional must be authorized by their regulating body to deliver psychotherapy.
Who should you see?
The type of professional you need to see will depend on your treatment goals and current health status, and it depends on what you want.
If you are in crisis, maybe you are unable to function or are a threat to yourself or others, then a psychiatrist is likely in order. You need to be in a relatively stable state to receive psychotherapy or undergo psychological tests . Tests and assessments need to be conducted at your baseline (your usual level of functioning). Reflecting and learning need to occur at a time of lower stress. Medication can help you endure the crisis and get you back to your baseline.
If you are in crisis, or if there is a concern you might hurt yourself or someone else, contact 9-1-1, or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
You can also click here for a list of crisis services.
If you have longstanding or complex symptoms and are seeking psychological tests to ascertain if a diagnosis exists, a psychologist might be your best bet.
But not everyone wants or needs the diagnosis. Some of us have issues that are moderately annoying rather than completely debilitating. Some of us just want to grow as individuals. If that’s you, you could seek services from any regulated profession authorized to deliver psychotherapy. You may find that practitioners offering only psychotherapy are more accessible in terms of availability and affordability
Sometimes people may need to see more than one type of profession. If you are someone having panic attacks so severe you cease to function, you might need to see a psychiatrist.
A psychiatrist will assess, possibly diagnose, and likely prescribe medication. This medication can stop your panic attacks long enough to be assessed by a psychologist.
The results of these assessments will lend insight into the cause of the panic attacks.
These insights will inform the psychotherapies selected for treatment.
Take some time to consider what you want. If you aren't sure talk to your doctor or take advantage of free consults.
I believe everyone would benefit from counselling and psychotherapy, but not everyone is ready for it. The timing matters. Motivation matters. Now might not be the right time, but if you feel ready to try psychotherapy, contact us at your preferred coordinates (online, email, phone) or click here to book your free consultation today.
LAH Counselling is not a crisis service. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, mental health crisis, or there is a concern you may hurt yourself or someone else, contact 9-1-1 (for residents of Ontario) or go to your nearest hospital emergency department. You can also click here for a list of crisis services.