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Should You Go To A Counselor, Psychologist or Psychiatrist?

Updated: Aug 8, 2023



Navigating the landscape of mental health support can feel like learning a whole new language. We've all heard the terms - counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist - but do you ever find yourself a bit puzzled about what exactly each one does? Keep reading.


Counselors: Your emotional guides


Counselors typically hold a bachelor’s or master's degree in counseling or related fields. Their role focuses on helping individuals understand and manage personal problems, life issues, or mental health conditions through a variety of techniques like talk therapy, active listening, and guidance. They tend to work in a variety of settings, including schools, health facilities, and private practices.


Psychologists: Meeting the architects of the mind


Now, let's talk about psychologists. If counselors are likened to tour guides, psychologists are like architects - they study the blueprints of our minds and behaviors. Clinical psychologists have a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, and an M.Phil with an RCI registration. They use psychological theories and scientific methods to understand and explain people's behavior and mental processes. This might involve administering psychological tests, conducting research, or offering psychotherapy services.

While psychologists can help with similar issues as counselors, they often work with more complex or severe psychological conditions. They can also work in various settings, including universities, research institutions, hospitals, government offices, and private practices.


Psychiatrists: The medical maestros


Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MD or DO) who specialize in diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental illnesses. Because of their medical training, they can consider the physical as well as the mental aspects of mental health conditions. This means psychiatrists can prescribe medication and use treatments like electroconvulsive therapy.

They often work in tandem with other mental health professionals and can help with a wide range of mental health conditions, from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. So, if you're dealing with a mental health condition that might require medication, a psychiatrist is your go-to person.


Therapists: The umbrella term


Finally, you'll often hear the word ‘therapist’. This is a broad term that covers all of the above and more, including social workers and marriage and family therapists. Essentially, if someone uses therapeutic techniques to help with mental health, they're a therapist!


So, how do you choose? Think about what you need. If life's getting you down or you simply need to vent, consider chatting with a counselor. If it feels a bit more serious, a psychologist can help. And if you think medication might be in the cards, then reach out to a psychiatrist.


Remember, your mental health journey is your own, and you deserve the right support. Don't be shy about asking professionals about their training, their approach, and how they can help you. After all, it's about finding the best co-pilot for your journey.


Let's not forget - reaching out for help isn't a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength and an act of self-care. Got thoughts, queries, or experiences to share? We'd love to hear from you.


Guest article by Bhavya Malhotra | Edited by the Team @ Good Wave Foundation


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