What is the difference between a psychotherapist, psychiatrist, and psychologist?
A psychotherapist interacts with clients most often via talk therapy. The work is usually grounded in a theory using various treatment modalities to address interpersonal relationship issues and common mental health struggles. Psychotherapists help clients gain insight and work to initiate change in a client’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior to promote an improved quality of life through healing and growth.
What’s the difference between talking to you, my best friend, or a family member?
Psychologists are highly trained to listen and make assessments. They understand how to hold a client’s story and work through emotional pain and life’s struggles at a pace that meets the client’s needs. In a crisis, psychologists are trained in how to keep you safe and provide you the direction and referrals you may need. Family and friends may be understandably less objective and easily swayed by your emotional reactions, making it difficult for them to guide you through a difficult time. A skilled mental health professional such as a psychologist can help you approach your situation in a new way, teach you new skills, gain different perspectives, listen to you without judgment or expectations, and help you listen to yourself.
Counseling is also confidential. You don’t have to worry about others knowing what you are not ready to share and what you are struggling with until you are ready to do so. If your situation provokes a great deal of emotion, you are free to express it in the protected space of counseling, which may be difficult to do with a family member or friend. That said, family and friends can provide support, empathy and love, all of which have a very positive impact on healing. Allow friends and family to be that in your life, and allow a trained and skilled mental health professional such as a psychologist to be your counselor.
How does it work? What do I have to do in counseling sessions?
Because each person has different issues and goals for counseling, counseling will be different depending on the individual. I tailor my therapeutic approach to your specific needs. In general, you can expect to discuss the current events happening in your life, your personal history relevant to what’s bringing you to counseling, and report progress (or any new insights gained) from the previous counseling session.
How long will it take?
Depending on your specific needs, counseling can be short-term, for a specific issue, or longer-term, to deal with more difficult patterns or your desire for more personal growth and development. Either way, it is most common to schedule regular weekly counseling sessions initially, and then space them out as you see progress.
If I commit to counseling, what can I expect? How can I get the most out of counseling?
It is important to understand that you will get more results from counseling if you actively participate in the process. The ultimate purpose of counseling is to help you bring what you learn in counseling sessions back into your life. Beyond the work you do in counseling sessions, if you are receptive to “homework” (activities such as monitoring your behavior, practicing new skills and behaviors, readings and other activities designed to help you learn and grown), I can suggest some things you can do outside of therapy to support your progress.