With the increasing needs of the society, mental health professionals are becoming a necessity. This is leading to the creation of diverse job profiles such as relationship counselors, career counselors, academic counselors, therapists, psychologists and so on. It often becomes difficult for an individual to decide who to approach for resolving an issue. Counselors, psychologists or psychiatrists, whatever the job may be, they share one important responsibility- ensuring the mental wellness of the people in need. Professionals in all the three fields assist those suffering from mental health problems, their family and performing crisis intervention if needed. However, the significant difference in their professions come from their education and training. But according to the needs of the client, resources available and awareness about the situation, the difference often becomes a fine line.
Counselors generally work in private practice or settings like schools and community centers. They must obtain a masters degree and a further diploma in counseling and guidance. Generally speaking, counselors offer assistance in dealing with problems such as addictions, self-esteem issues, trauma, relationship issues, career choices, and the like. Most countries need counselors to be licensed in order to work in certain settings. The terms “counselor” and “therapist” are often used interchangeably. Psychotherapy, the term, covers all therapies and methods. While some therapists teach you skills to manage difficult emotions, others work with severe problems like psychosis and create a proper long-term treatment plan. A psychotherapist can work with individuals, families or groups and chooses from a wide range of therapies such as CBT, psychoanalytic therapies, art, dance and movement therapy, etc. On the other hand, a counselor mainly approaches the problem through talk therapy.
Psychologists perform the same duties as a counselor along with additional services such as administering tests and providing psychotherapy. A psychologist requires a state license to practice in private, mental health clinics and hospitals. Psychologists are not entitled to provide medications. In most countries, to be a psychologist, one needs a doctorate degree in psychology. In case of India, professional degree in clinical psychology also enables one to practice with a license.
The textbook difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist is a medical degree.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors with specialized training in psychiatry. They diagnose and provide prescriptions for disorders like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. Their prime approach to treatment is pharmacotherapy. They tend to work with more severe conditions that need immediate medical intervention. After the initial crisis has been managed, the psychiatrist refers the patient to a psychologist for a weekly or monthly psychotherapy.
In recent times, the profession of “life coach” is flourishing as well. Life coaching is largely different from counseling. A life coach addresses specific personal objectives or relationship goals. It involves discovering your obstacles, challenges and combating other life adversaries. The aim of life coaching is to choose a path of life to make your life better. The team of mental health workers includes many other members such as social workers, psychiatric nurses, family therapists, who work together to ensure long-term support to the
ones in need.
Finding the type of mental health support that suits your condition is an important decision to make. Checking the professional’s training, qualification and experience are advised as far as practicable to have a better understanding of who can support your needs.