In the mental health world, it is possible to find either psychiatrists and psychologists, who have almost similar objectives as regards their profession. They work with people’s minds and its effects on behavior and well-being. They usually work together to prevent, diagnose and treat mental illnesses.
However, their professions present some differences. This might be confusing to people when they are looking for help. What is more, there are other professionals who also work with mental health problems like counselors, social workers, nurses and nurse practitioners. Let’s try to clarify each profession, to ease the process.
If you suffer from a chronic mental health problem, you might feel weak, and your body might respond physically to depression or anxiety. And sometimes, it can cause a physical reaction. That is why firstly you should see a doctor.
The doctor will ask you about how you feel, the symptoms you are experiencing and how long you have had them. Your physical problems might be checked to decide what professional and the kind of therapy are appropriate for you.
Mental Health Professionals
According to your diagnosis, the doctor will refer to one of the following professionals:
A psychiatrist who is a medical doctor specialized in preventing, diagnosing and treating mental illness. A psychiatrist is a professional trained to distinguish mental health problems from other medical conditions. They should monitor the effects of mental illness and medicines on the body.
Because the psychiatrist is is a doctor licensed to write prescriptions, several mental disorders are treated with specific drugs. In some cases, medication works alone but some others a combination of counseling will be important. In that situation, the psychiatrist might provide the psychotherapy, or refer you to a counselor.
On the other hand, a psychologist has a doctoral degree in psychology, which is the study of the mind and behaviors. This professional is qualified to do counseling and psychotherapy, as well as perform psychological testing, and provide treatment for mental disorders.
Psychologists cannot write prescriptions or perform medical procedures. And they sometimes work in association with a psychiatrist or a medical doctor who are allowed to prescribe medicine
As regards a psychological counselor, it can be said that this professional has a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field. The counselor is qualified to evaluate and treat mental problems by providing counseling or psychotherapy.
Another professional in the mental health field is the clinical social worker who might have a master’s degree in social work capable of evaluating and treating mental illnesses. They can provide case management, hospital discharge planning work and guide parents and family.
Lastly, it is possible to find a mental health nurse who has specialized training in providing services. They are able to evaluate patients and assess treatments as psychotherapy. In some places. They can prescribe and monitor medication under the supervision of a doctor.
Counseling and Psychotherapy
It is quite common to interchange the terms counseling and therapy. However, there is a difference between them. Counseling focuses mainly on specific problems, and it helps people address a particular situation, such as addiction or stress management. The treatment may aim to solve a problem or to learn specific techniques to cope with or avoid a problematic situation. It tends to be a short-term treatment.
On the contrary, psychotherapy is a long-term process, and it focuses on a broader range of mental issues. The primary concern is connected to how a person’s thinking and behavior might affect the way in which this person interacts with the world.
Its objective may be helping people feel better to prepare to manage stress, understand that behavior which may interfere with reaching personal goals. It will also help people to find a satisfying relationship and regulate their emotions to control stressful situations.
Within the psychotherapy field, there are several approaches which are sometimes called talk therapy. They are suited to treat a more specific type of problem, and most of them are one-on-one with a therapist, or group-based or family-based.
Psychoanalytic or Psychodynamic Therapies.
It helps people to make problems conscious in order to deal with them. It might involve analyzing a dream or explore the past.
- Behavioral Therapy.
This approach focuses changing unhealthy behavioral patterns trying to help the patients learn new associations or controlling series of exposures to the factors that trigger them to behave inappropriately.
- Cognitive Therapy.
The emphasis in cognitive therapy is on a person’s thoughts. It treats dysfunctional thinking that might lead to dysfunctional emotions or behaviors. So it helps the patient to recognize unhealthy thinking patterns and change them into positive beliefs.
- Humanistic Therapy.
This is based on the idea that people are capable of making rational choices and developing their maximum potential. It is commonly client-centered who is seen as the authority in connection to what the person is experiencing.
- Integrative or Holistic Therapy.
This therapy relies on integrating multiple approaches based on the client’s individual needs. An example of this is the combination of two therapies which focus on thought and behavior at the same time.
Start with a Mental Health Treatment.
To find the appropriate professional for you might not be an easy task, but you need to be well assessed in order to make the correct decision regarding treatment. So, firstly you should find a medical doctor who can guide you and provide enough information that helps you see the differences among the professionals. The doctor will give you a general diagnosis which is the starting point for the choice of therapy.
Ask the doctor as many questions as come to your mind, and describe what is happening to you and what you expect from the treatment. Finally, you will take a decision and make an appointment with the professional that best fits your needs.
At your first appointment, the mental health professional will ask you some questions about why you think you need to come to therapy, your symptoms and how long you have had them and how you have been dealing with them. The professional might also ask you about your personal life of family and work and what you do to relax.
All these questions are essential to develop the appropriate therapy for you and decide the approach to the treatment. When you finish, a plan for treatment would be given to you, and you will be able to ask and solve the doubts you might have.
It might take you some time to feel entirely comfortable with the therapy but if you notice that after a while you are still not sure, let the professional know about it and explain why you think it is happening so you can work the problem out and make the best of the treatment.