Mental health is a hot topic these days. We’re constantly encouraged to seek help if we need it. But how do you know if your condition seriously warrants professional help?
The thought of seeing a therapist can be scary. If you’re wondering whether you need one, learning more about how therapy works can help.
Therapists vs. Counselors vs. Psychologists vs. Psychiatrists
Mental health professionals come with a colorful assortment of titles. If you can’t separate your MDs from your PhDs, this is the guide for you! According to the Human Services Guide, an online resource that helps people start careers in social work:
- Counselor is a general umbrella term that may include both highly-trained, licensed clinicians with advanced education and those who don’t have in-depth knowledge of clinical research. For example, a faith-based counselor may not be fully licensed and trained, but can be immensely helpful to someone seeking a spiritual perspective.
- Therapist is a title in some states that professionals have to earn through licensing. In other states, this is just a general term that covers anyone who practises therapy, such as life coaches.
- Psychologist is a term for those who usually have an advanced degree in their field and are licensed by their state. They have a very in-depth understanding of clinical psychological research. They also diagnose mental illnesses, and suggest treatments. You can find psychologists teaching at colleges, researching for universities, or leading their own private practice.
- Psychiatrist are medical doctors who have gone to medical school. These MDs have done extra training in the field of psychiatry. They may be found in the psych ward of a hospital, treating inpatients. Psychiatrists are also authorized to make formal diagnoses and prescribe medication.
Therapy is work.
When you think of the word therapy, what image comes to mind? Do you see yourself lying on a couch telling an old bearded man stories from your childhood? While that may be the stereotypical image of therapy, modern psychotherapy has evolved to be very different.
Modern psychotherapy relies on evidence-based techniques. Clients also take a more active role. Your therapists may teach you coping techniques or anxiety management skills, and you may be expected to practise these exercises between sessions. For example, a client with obsessive-compulsive disorder may practise slowly exposing themselves to anxiety triggers (i.e., germs).
Medication may help with therapy.
Just because you do therapy, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to take medication. And just because you take medication, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to do therapy.
In fact, the two can work very well together. Therapy can be daunting, especially if it involves uncomfortable exercises like the exposure therapy mentioned above. Medication can help by alleviating symptoms so you can more easily handle the psychotherapy.
Medication for mental health is often a long-term affair. If the price of medication gives you stress, consider buying your meds from an online international or Canadian pharmacy service. Services like these, such as Canada Med Pharmacy, offer medications at affordable prices. This is because many countries outside the United States have stricter price regulations.
You don’t have to keep your therapist.
A good relationship between client and therapist is fundamental to treatment success. If you don’t click with your therapist, it is completely okay to find another one. Not everyone gets along with everyone. Another therapist may have done more training in the area you need help with. If your current therapist is professional, they will not be upset by your leaving.
Do you need therapy?
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether you need therapy.
Of course, that decision is easier said than made. Therapy is expensive, so it is understandably difficult to decide. Try searching for clinics in your area that offer free, initial consultations. The mere opportunity to talk to an experienced professional can provide you with valuable insight.
If therapy proves too expensive or too time-consuming, you can benefit from reading self-help books. There are plenty of self-help books out there, so you may have to do some research to find one that works for you. In general, look for authors who have completed a high level of education and have real-life clinical experience.
Otherwise, keep building on healthy habits. Habits like eating a proper diet, ample exercise, and regular socializing with people you trust are incredibly beneficial to mental health.