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Should I See a Therapist or a Psychologist? Find the Right Mental Health Professional for You


Taking care of your mental health can be incredibly important, especially if you are someone who experiences mental illness. However, understanding exactly what different types of professionals offer can be difficult. Should I see a psychiatrist or a psychologist? What's the difference? And what about therapists? Are those the same? And what about social workers? In this article, we'll address the questions around different types of mental health professionals, and offer guidance on which may be the right choice for your particular situation.

Understanding Mental Health Professionals

Mental health professionals encompass a wide range of approaches and techniques within the greater field of mental health. They are trained experts who help individuals cope with mental health issues, mental illness, and mental health conditions.

Mental health professionals can include psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and therapists, mental health counselors, social workers, and more.

Types of Mental Health Professionals

Psychologists and Therapists: Key Differences

First, let's take a look at psychologists and therapists. Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology, the study of human behavior, either as a Ph.D. or PsyD, and are qualified to do counseling and psychotherapy, perform psychological testing, and provide treatment for mental disorders.

Therapists, including licensed mental health counselors, have a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field and are qualified to evaluate and treat mental problems by providing talk therapy or counseling. Therapists generally treat patients with less severe mental health disorders, or those who may be looking for guidance in their lives.

Psychologists often have additional education and training, which allows them to work with those with severe mental illness or mental disorders. In school or professional settings, psychologists may be preferred for diagnosing certain mental health conditions, or providing evaluations.

Other Mental Health Professionals

Psychiatrists, on the other hand, are medical doctors who specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating mental illness, and are trained to differentiate mental health problems from other underlying medical conditions. They attend medical school, and then receive additional education and training in psychology. While a psychiatrist can provide talk therapy, more often they diagnose mental illness, prescribe medication, and follow up with a patient on medication management. If an individual also requires talk therapy, they will usually be referred to a psychologist or a therapist.

Clinical social workers have at least a master's degree in social work and are trained to evaluate and treat mental illnesses, provide case management, and plan hospital discharges. While some may be able to offer talk therapy, providing mental health services is not their main function.

Choosing the Right Mental Health Professional

Choosing the right professional for your situation is one of the most important steps in the process. Therapy is only effective with consistent work, and even if you are meeting with the best clinical psychologist in the state, it won't matter if you don't have trust and rapport with them.

Consider Your Needs and Goals

When choosing a mental health professional, consider their credentials, educational background, and clinical experience, as well as any specific issues you want to address. Also, consider the type of therapy you need. There are a number of evidence-based therapeutic techniques and approaches, and which works best can depend on your challenge, as well as personal preferences.

Other Factors to Consider

The cost of therapy or psychology services varies depending on factors like location and provider. If you are working with a mental health counselor for a period of time, make sure that you know how much you are going to pay, so you aren't surprised later.

Also, consider whether you need medication management or a mental health diagnosis. In these cases, you may want to start by seeing a psychiatrist, and then look for clinical psychologists and therapists to continue with once you have your mental health condition diagnosed and medically stabilized.

Finding a Mental Health Professional

In today's world, it can be easier than ever to find a mental health professional. There are many more options, and accessibility is higher than ever for many people. There are many ways you can find a counselor, psychologist, or therapist, including online platforms.

Online therapy can be both effective and convenient, but it’s essential to find a provider who is licensed and qualified.

What to Expect from Therapy

Once you've found the therapist you want to work with, it can be helpful to have an idea of what to expect from the therapy process.

Counseling focuses on specific issues and is designed to help a person address a particular problem, such as addiction or stress management.

Psychotherapy offers more long-term guidance than counseling and focuses on a broader range of issues, such as patterns of thinking and behavior. Their additional training may allow them to dig a little deeper into human behavior than others in the mental health field.

Getting the Most Out of Mental Health Services

Finding the right mental health professional and approach to therapy is as important as finding the right medical doctor. That's why a therapist or psychologist will not be surprised if you ask for their qualifications. Make sure that they have at least a master's degree and, and ideally, a doctoral degree in psychology. Find out what additional specialized training they've completed, and make sure that they are licensed in your state.

During your first office visit, the mental health professional will want to talk with you about why you think you need to come to therapy and develop a plan for treatment. Be honest with your mental health concerns and life challenges, and take note of whether you feel able to speak openly and comfortably with your therapist.

Finding the Right Licensed Professionals in Brooklyn

If you find that you are experiencing mental health conditions like depression or anxiety disorders, or if you are simply looking to find counseling psychologists and therapists who can help guide you to greater well-being in general, we can help.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists offers a number of evidence-based therapeutic approaches, both in-person and online, so that you can find the professional that best meets your individual needs.

Give us a call today and our patient coordinator will help you find the right Brooklyn therapist to offer emotional support as well as tools and strategies to promote rational beliefs, foster unconditional self-acceptance, and improve mental health and well-being.

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