Is there a difference between a psychiatrist, counselor and psychologist, and how do they assist with mental health?
You may be interested in getting healthcare services for a previously diagnosed condition, or perhaps you have never been diagnosed and are looking for someone to make an initial visit with. You might also need counseling for something that you do not believe is necessarily medical or psychiatric. Regardless, there are several options available that can make this search confusing, but equipped with the right information, you can make the best decision for you and your family.
Licensed mental health counselor
A licensed mental health counselor can provide you with counseling, as well as psychotherapy (specific talk therapy designed for certain psychiatric conditions), to help aid you in your recovery. They receive a master’s degree in psychology or counseling and are required to have several years of experience working directly with a mental health professional after graduate school.
A psychologist can provide similar services to the licensed mental health counselor (counseling, psychotherapy) but have more in-depth training that can better prepare them for more wide-ranging illnesses and ways to treat them. They undergo the rigors of graduate school in order to receive a doctoral degree and are required to do an internship between two to three years for further training.
A psychiatrist can also provide counseling and psychotherapy services, but they are also able to prescribe medications. Except for in just a few states, psychiatrists are the only healthcare professionals available on this list that are legally able to prescribe medications to the psychiatric conditions that they diagnose.
A psychiatrist is required to go to four years of medical school, so they can accurately distinguish when your psychiatric problems are truly psychiatric or if they are occurring due to another medical problem. It may be surprising, but a variety of common conditions (e.g., UTIs) can have psychiatric symptoms as well. Due to their medical training, they can also keep track of the side effects due to the medication they might prescribe.
How do I choose which healthcare professional to receive services from?
Again, it can be overwhelming to choose which healthcare professional to start with. Begin with what you are open to: counseling, medication or both. Often, many healthcare professionals work together to provide the best possible care. For example, a psychiatrist may prescribe you medications and monitor your symptoms and side effects while you also receive counseling services from a licensed mental health counselor.
If you are seeking care for something that does not necessarily need medication, like marriage counseling, you may want to seek a counselor or psychologist that specializes in that field. Likewise, if you suspect that you may be experiencing symptoms that may require medications, it may be wise to see a psychiatrist so they can properly diagnose and prescribe a medication best suited for you.