Okay, so you have probably had this thought cross your mind before. “What’s the difference between counselors, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists”? Truthfully speaking, there are many different titles and each one has their own meaning with their own approach, but share the same mission of helping people who are struggling with a mental health condition.
So what’s the real difference between them?
When it comes to counselors, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and other titles, the difference is the approach each professional takes to help others. From providing tactics that help manage symptoms to prescribing medication, each profession plays their part in helping the public maintain and reach mental clarity.
Counselors, Therapists, Psychologists and Psychiatrists
Let’s take a bit of deep dive into the differences between counselors, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. While some are similar in their job duties, each of the mental health professionals are unique in their own right.
Counselors primary focus is similar to therapists where they conduct assessments to find the issue that plagues one’s daily function and provide techniques and advice to overcome that adversity.
The primary difference between therapists and counselors is the approach they take to helping people. Counselors will provide tactics to mitigate the symptoms you are experiencing. If you have anxiety and have been experiencing panic attacks for example, a counselor will suggest ways to help manage said panic attacks which could include breathing exercises or the 3-3-3 rule.
Counselors, like therapists, need to hold a masters degree in addition to proper licensure and credentials in order to help clients.
Therapists are the mental health professionals whose primary focus is conducting therapy assisting that you can jump over life’s hurdles even though you are carrying the weight of a mental health condition. Therapists need to hold a masters degree that specializes in an area of psychology or social work along with proper licensure, credentials and training in order to conduct therapy.
Also, therapists will take it a step further to find the source behind the challenge you're facing. Using talk therapies and other therapeutic techniques to discover where the root of the problem lies.
Psychologists, these are the professionals who specialize in researching more than anything else. Fine tuning modalities and assisting in creating practices that best help people find there way when a mental condition tells them to live an a-typical life compared to those adjacent to them.
Typically, a psychologist holds a doctorate degree. Albeit, this type of mental health profession is focused on research and a psychologist will still conduct therapy sessions for clients. An important note is that while they hold a doctorate degree they cannot prescribe medication to their clients.
A psychiatrist will be the one that prescribes you medication and assists in monitoring its effectiveness. Typically, these mental health professionals do not conduct therapy and focus on monitoring the medication prescribed. Only certain mental health professionals like psychiatrists can prescribe medication for treatment. Other mental health professions that can do this include:
All of those listed above require at least a masters degree in addition to specific licensure and credentials to permit them to prescribe medication. To circle back to psychiatrist, in addition to obtaining their doctorate degree, they must also complete their residency training as well as acquire the proper licensure. As you can see, it takes a lot of studying and training to be able to prescribe medication.
So Who Should I See?
Well, that all depends on the issue that you are facing. Some conditions such as schizophrenia require both medication and therapy whereas a condition like depression can be managed with therapy.
If you are looking for a place to start, it’s a good rule of thumb to reach out to a mental health professional to schedule a consultation to get a better understanding about the symptoms you are experiencing. It is common for you to think that you have depression, but in reality it is actually anxiety.
The mental health field is vast and requires many different specialists to help everyone out in the world. While some may seem similar like counselors and therapists, their approach is completely different. It is important to note that while the approach is different it is still effective for helping people. Some will have better results working with a therapist while others do well with a counselor. Some simply just need medication and others can prosper from reading the work of psychologists. Afterall, we are all a different piece to the same puzzle.