Mental Health professionals: what are the differences?
Finding the right mental health professional can help you take control of any issue in your life. But which mental health professional is right for you?
We’ve gathered together the basic information you need to learn about different types of mental health professionals to help understand the differences between the services they offer.
Psychotherapy is a term that covers all talking therapies and the many associated approaches/methods. Due to the broad use of the terms, the titles psychotherapist and counsellor are often used interchangeably.
People with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or other similar illnesses can be supported by a psychotherapist.
Psychotherapists can work in mental health settings, hospitals, clinics or health centres and can work with individuals, groups, couples or families.
There are many different methods when it comes to this profession. Some therapists also teach skills to help you manage difficult emotions more effectively.
For more severe conditions, such as psychosis, a psychotherapist will normally work with other professionals (such as psychiatrists). This allows for an effective, robust treatment plan.
Psychotherapists will typically meet with clients on a regular basis (once a week is considered the norm). This is a longer-termed process that will identify emotional issues tied with personal backgrounds and life challenges that have been faced. The method may be a longer one, but you are more than likely to come out enlightened, and have a more substantial capability to take control of your life. There are many different types of therapy that psychotherapists can train in. They include:
- cognitive and behavioural therapies (focusing on the way people think and behave)
- psychoanalytic therapies (looking at how past experiences affect the present)
- humanistic therapies (with a focus on self-development and growth)
- arts therapies (using the creative arts in a therapeutic way)
- other therapies (includes all other therapies such as group therapies and mindfulness).
Role of a psychotherapist
- Provides a solution to your problem
- Helps you get better
- Engage in dialogue
- Processes communication
- Implements behaviour change
It’s important to check that any Psychotherapist you see is accredited with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. These are voluntary registers which ensure that your therapist meets stringent training criteria and has committed themselves to ethical practice.
Psychotherapy is now commonly available online. These digital approaches aim to deliver therapy through video conferencing software or other platforms. They are easy and convenient ways to receive prompt mental health support.
A psychologist is someone who has an academic qualification in psychology (they are qualified in Psychology through a degree from a university and then usually complete a 3-year Doctorate, which results in a DPsych degree) and deals, in general, with the study of the human mind and behaviours, and they are great at evaluating and treating both mental and emotional disorders.
They are accredited through the Health Care and Professions Council (HCPC) as Practitioner/ Registered Psychologists. Although not legally required, it is also good practice for Psychologists to also be Chartered with The British Psychological Society (BPS).
To help them achieve their aims, psychologists use a range of scientific methods and tools, including lab tests, studies, surveys and interviews. Sometimes they form part of a treatment team in a care setting such as a hospital, using this knowledge to counsel patients.
Psychologists cannot prescribe medication, but provide assessment and brief therapy. Psychologists can specialise in a number of areas, such as mental health and educational and occupational psychology. In healthcare, psychologists specialise in clinical, counselling, forensic or health psychology. They typically work alongside psychiatrists, who are the only ones allowed to make diagnoses or prescribe drugs, when assessing clients.
Role of a psychologist
- Helps you identify why you have a problem
- Helps you identify what caused the problem
- Helps you understand How you discovered this problem
- Helps you identify what your motivations are
- They cannot prescribe medications
Counsellors and psychotherapists are terms some people use interchangeably. However, although both professionals can offer talking therapy without medications, they are different.
Counsellors work with clients to help them identify their goals, aspirations, potential and come up with viable solutions to problems that cause them emotional distress. They are great at growing communication, coping, self-esteem, and promoting positive behaviour. Some counsellors work more generally over a wide range of issues, while there are others who specialise in certain areas such as depression, relationship problems, or children. Keep in mind that some counsellors offer non-licensed services, so make sure you find someone who is accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
Counsellors do not have the same extensive educational requirements or clinical licensing as other forms of therapy. They must at least have a diploma level training (2 years), but many can hold degrees (3 years) and masters (a total of 5 years training).
Checking a professional\'s experience, training and qualifications is always advised. This will give you a better understanding of how they can help support your needs.
Counselling is oftentimes a short-term process for long term mental health benefits. The actual duration can certainly vary depending on your situation, but in general, it is usually 12 weeks or less. If your mental health is more severe, they will most likely refer you to someone more equipped to handle your case and diagnose you.
Psychiatrists must be medically qualified doctors who have chosen to specialise in psychiatry. This means they can prescribe medication as well as recommend other forms of treatment.
The term psychiatry refers to the study of mental disorders. This includes their diagnosis, management and prevention. Psychiatrists often work on a broad range of cases alongside an area of expertise and research.
Treatment from a psychiatrist can also provide general medical care. Many people with mental health conditions also have physical health problems that psychiatrists can help with. However, they will typically refer people to other specialists and providers for general healthcare.
Most psychiatrists work as part of community mental health teams (CMHTs), in outpatient clinics or hospital wards. Some carry out sessions in GP surgeries. They can diagnose and treat mental health disorders such as depression, severe anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Psychiatrists can work with people of any age. Yet they tend to work with those with more severe conditions and/or those that require medical intervention.
They are trained mental health professionals who have their own experience of mental health issues and recovery. This allows them to make a strong connection with those going through similar mental health challenges. By sharing their own experiences, they can help you feel more empowered and know you’re not alone.
There are different types of peer support, but they all involve both giving and receiving support. This could be sharing knowledge or providing emotional support, social interaction or practical help, for example. Everyone’s experiences are treated as equally important and no-one is more of an expert than anyone else.
There are many different types of peer support. Some examples include:
- support groups or self-help groups. These are run by trained peers and focus on emotional support, sharing experiences, education and practical activities
- one-to-one support, sometimes called mentoring or befriending. You meet someone to talk about how you’re feeling or to set goals, for example
- online forums.
Peer support programmes can help with various issues, including:
- bereavement / divorce
- relationship problems
- other mental health conditions.
Mental health social workers empower individuals with mental illness—and their families, carers, and communities—to lead fulfilling, independent lives.
Through talking therapy, support, and advocacy, they enable people to manage the social factors in their lives—like relationships, housing, and employment—that allow them to get well and stay well. Building resilience in individuals, their networks, and their communities transforms people’s wellbeing and improves our society and economy.
Some social workers are specially trained in mental health and can offer talking therapies,practical support, referrals to other services, counselling, information and emotional support.
Doctors/general practitioners (GP)
GPs are usually the first point of contact for seeking any type of help. A GP can diagnose health problems, as well as recognise symptoms of mental health difficulties that you might be experiencing. A GP can refer you to a mental health professional if you need one.
When you see your GP, they can:
- talk through problems
- prescribe medication where necessary
- refer you to a specialist counsellor or psychiatrist when necessary
Contact your GP immediately if you\'re concerned about your physical or mental health.
How do I know which mental health professional is right for me?
Seeing a GP will help you identify which mental health professional is the right fit for you. For example, if you have a mental health disorder, a psychologist and/or psychiatrist might be best, but if you need help with an external life issue, a social worker may be a better fit.
When choosing a mental health professional, a person should consider:
- their qualifications and experience
- the area they specialize in
- the techniques they use
- whether or not they prescribe medication
Many mental health professionals can help a person understand and recover from mental health conditions.
People should consider what kind of treatment they want to receive when choosing a mental health professional. The nature of the mental health condition is also important. A family doctor can guide on this.
Psychotherapy is a common form of treatment for many conditions, including depression and anxiety disorders. Licensed psychotherapists could be psychologists or psychiatrists.
Many people also take medications to help with mental health conditions, such as antidepressants. A family doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe these medications.
People who are experiencing specific issues that they need help with can consider counseling. For example, counseling can help couples with relationship difficulties that may be affecting their mental health.
If you are seeking help and don\'t know which mental health professional is the right fit for you, get in contact with us!
Disclaimer: BAC blog is mainly for information purposes only. Materials on this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on this website.