Taking the decision to seek help is already stressful for a lot of people, but not knowing who to reach out to can make it even more frustrating. You may know of someone taking weekly therapy sessions, while someone else might visit their psychiatrist every few weeks. Well, whom should you be consulting? Perhaps one of them (but which one?), maybe both? Let’s find out!
Who Is A Therapist?
A therapist, also known as a psychologist or a counsellor, is generally trained in psychotherapy and its various modalities. Many therapists use the classic “talk therapy” in their sessions, but psychotherapy is so much more than just talking.
Therapists use a bunch of interventions depending on their personal preferences and the modalities they work with, as well as the client’s needs. Some professionals may be specialised in helping the client change their negative or irrational thoughts through various worksheets and assessments, while others may be trained to help individuals process bodily signs of past trauma or abuse.
There are as many different therapists as there are people, so while it can take a couple of tries to find a therapist you’re comfortable with, feel mentally aligned with, and whose psychotherapy techniques resonate with you, finding them can make a world of difference.
While educational qualifications and specialized training or certifications can vary greatly (ranging from Ph.D. to PsyD, trauma-informed, queer-affirmative, eclectic, and so on), having a Master’s degree in Psychology, Counselling/Clinical Psychology, or any related course is mandatory to practice as a therapist.
Clinical psychologists have additional training for using psychometric tools, providing diagnoses, and working with clinical populations (individuals who may be struggling with severe psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, psychosis, and so on.) In India, a professional must be licensed by the RCI (Rehabilitation Council of India) and have an MPhil or PsyD in Clinical Psychology to use the title of “Clinical Psychologist legally”. RCI also licences Associate Clinical Psychologists who have completed a 1-year diploma from a recognized institution.
Who Is A Psychiatrist?
A psychiatrist is a medical professional who is trained to diagnose and treat psychological/psychiatric disorders. Psychiatrists are required to have an MBBS degree followed by an MD in Psychiatry. Their work includes prescribing medications and managing medication-related treatment. While many people are apprehensive of psychiatric medications, if prescribed by a professional and taken in the advised dosages, they generally don’t have any major side effects and aren’t addictive.
Depending on the nature and severity of your symptoms, psychiatrists prescribe the appropriate medicines (antidepressants, antipsychotic medication, and so on) in the required doses and then monitor the effects. Depending on the effects, they may reduce or increase certain doses over time. This does not fall within the scope of what a therapist does, making it a major difference between therapists and psychiatrists.
Training in psychotherapy is varied for psychiatrists. Some psychiatrists also provide psychotherapy, while others prefer only to prescribe and manage their client’s medication.
Should I See A Therapist or A Psychiatrist?
A common misconception many people have in the therapist vs psychiatrist debate is that therapists and psychiatrists are in competition with each other, which is far from the truth. Actually, therapists and psychiatrists are complementary to each other.
Depending on the diagnosed illness and its severity, a person may take regular therapy and consult a psychiatrist for medications. Therapy is almost always advised along with medication to encourage long-lasting improvement, while medications help stabilise the existing symptoms.
Usually, individuals with severe mental illnesses may prefer consulting a psychiatrist first, while those struggling with mild to moderate anxiety, depressive symptoms, or day-to-day adjustment issues might find it helpful to get in touch with a therapist and then plan ahead.
We hope this article gives you some clarity about where to seek help. If you’ve decided whom to consult (or want to try both options before deciding), Rocket Health’s services can help you get in touch with expert therapists and psychiatrists from the convenience of your home.