Few medical fields are as confusing to the general public as mental and behavioral health. Terms like "shrink" and "therapist" further this confusion as these terms have been used to describe all types of mental health clinicians. In truth, psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors all have a unique role in the treatment of mental illness. As a result, these fields often work together to provide better results for patients. We will take a brief look at the differences between these 3 professions below:
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D. or D.O.) that has completed medical school and specializes through 4+ further years in preventing, diagnosing, and treating mental illness. Medical school is a necessary component of becoming a psychiatrist as these physicians monitor the effects of mental illness and medications on the rest of the body. Some physical diseases can hide behind a presentation of mental illness when in fact, they have a medical disease origin. Psychiatrists are licensed to prescribe medications, but some also provide psychotherapy as part of treatment.
A psychologist has a doctoral degree (PhD, PsyD, or EdD) which includes graduate school and an internship that can last 2-3 years to provide further training. While psychologists are also trained to perform psychotherapy, many focus on the administration of psychological and neurological testing to assess for areas of dysfunction. The results of these tests can help psychiatrists and counselors better understand the strengths and limitations of patients as well as help to establish a more precise diagnostic picture.
Licensed Professional Counselors
A licensed professional counselor is a master's level psychotherapist or higher who has completed a bachelors degree and a masters degree in the field. They may provide individual and/or group therapy. Counselors can help use a variety of therapeutic techniques to treat mental illness. In addition to treating mental illness, some counselors help with career development, grief, or help improve dysfunctional family situations.
When you meet with your first mental health expert, be sure to ask questions about how your treatment may improve by utilizing other types of mental health experts. Utilizing a proper combination of professionals may improve your chances of recovery.