Therapy jargon can be pretty confusing. You might have heard of the terms counsellor, psychotherapist, psychologist or psychiatrist, but what is the difference? And when should you go see one, and who is the right person to see?
There are a range of people who can help you with your mental health and wellbeing, but it can be hard to know who best to turn to. Radiant is here to help. Below we have collated a list of the types of professionals you will find on our website and what they do, so you can find the right support to fit your needs.
A general practioner, also known as a GP or doctor, is a great person to talk to about your wellbeing; they will listen, give advice and provide treatment options if you need it. If you are feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or having difficulty navigating life’s ups and downs, your GP can be a good first port of call.
All GPs have mental health training and can help you work through what is going on and what might be the best treatment option for you. Depending on your situation they may refer you to a counsellor, a psychotherapist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist or another mental health practitioner.
Counsellor or psychotherapist
The terms counselling and psychotherapy are often used interchangeably.
Both professions involve individuals, groups or couples talking with a professional about any issues, problems and concerns they might be facing. Counsellors and psychotherapists are also likely to be registered with either Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia or Australian Counselling Association .
The key difference is that counselling is usually a brief treatment and centre’s around practical and more obvious problems like dealing with a stressful semester, a difficult boss, or managing relationship difficulties with your partner.
Psychotherapy, on the other hand, is longer in duration and looks deeper into emotional problems and difficulties. For example, psychotherapy might help you to uncover unconscious patterns to enhance your understanding of yourself and thereby improve the way you interact with the world.
A counsellor is a therapist who works with individuals, couples, families and groups to explore and address their identified concerns.
A counsellor can help you improve your mental health and wellbeing with the use of evidence-based interventions and therapeutic models such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and many others.
The counselling relationship is built upon trust, security, and confidentiality. Since counsellors often work with more urgent, immediate support, many counsellors are flexible in how they communicate, offering counselling support in various ways, such as online or in person.
Like counsellors, a psychotherapist also works with individuals, couples, families and groups but generally over a longer period. Using talk therapy, they will discuss and explore your past and present challenges, emotions, relationships and beliefs. Through this process they will support and empower you to take control of your life and heal from any psychological distress that you have experienced.
In addition to using talk-based therapies, some psychotherapist might also use art, music, dance and movement to support your therapy session.
People seek out psychotherapy for many reasons. The most common are when you have noticed a pattern of conflict or crises in your life and want to understand what is inhibiting you from reaching your full potential. Psychotherapists help you understand your personal narrative and how certain situations continue happening,
Psychologist or Psychiatrist
Psychologists and psychiatrists are both experts in how the brain works and are able to treat mental illnesses through psychological therapies.
The key difference is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor, whereas a psychologist is not. A psychiatrist is essentially a doctor of the mind and spends at least 11 years of training. They are able to write medical prescriptions. A psychiatrist will make diagnosis and manage treatment through a broad range of therapies that tend to suit more complex mental health conditions.
Psychologists have at minimum of six years of training and have special training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. While many psychologists do have Masters or Doctoral degrees, they are not medical doctorates or MDs. Psychologists tend to see people with behavioral or learning difficulties, depression and anxiety. Like counsellors and psychotherapists, psychologists also use talk therapy but can also conduct psychological assessments and testing, as well as develop interventions and programs for individuals and couples, and groups.
Who should I see?
This entirely depends on your needs and objectives. As a first step, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor and ask about
Your doctor will work with you and recommend the best practitioner for you to see. Radiant can then help you by guiding you through hundreds of mental health experts. Designed like a directory, you choose the filters that are most appropriate so that you can find the right person for you and your needs.