Counseling is a widely used term in today’s world. Words like “Therapist”, “Counselor”, “Shrink”, “Psychologist”, and “Advisor” get thrown around and sometimes are confusing. Listed below is a breakdown of the different terms, what they mean, and how to know which one you might need.
Counselor – This is a broad term within the “Helping Field.” A counselor may be considered professional or “Lay.” Professional counselors are individuals who have completed a Graduate-Level degree in Counseling/Psychology fields and have earned a “License” or “Credential” for professional counseling. The goal of counselors is to help their clients through situations using techniques based on various counseling theories. Counselors DO NOT give advice, write prescriptions, or work with clients outside of their realm of competency. Counselors DO listen, suggest helpful activities, diagnose, expand one’s thinking, and refer clients who may need medical assistance or help outside of their realm of competency. You may seek a counselor if you are experiencing stress, depression, emotional “blockage”, anxiety, major life changes, etc.
Psychotherapist – A good description for this individual comes from HealthCommunities.com: “A psychotherapist interacts with patients to initiate change in the patient’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior through adaptation. Psychotherapists provide treatment in individual and group settings. A licensed psychotherapist obtains a master’s degree or doctorate in a chosen mental health field, undergoes a supervised clinical residency, and is licensed, certified, or registered by a government or psychological agency to which they are accountable.” This term may be confusing because Counselors, Psychologists, and Social Workers may use “psychotherapy” in their therapeutic techniques. The term Psychotherapist can sometimes be viewed as an “umbrella” term.
Psychologist – This description comes from the American Psychological Association: “Psychologists hold a doctoral degree such as a PhD or PsyD. They study both normal and abnormal functioning and treat patients with mental and emotional problems. They also study and encourage behaviors that build wellness and emotional resilience.” These types of mental health professionals deal with issues ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia. They have a good understanding of why people do the things that they do, and they may be able to help you understand why you think the way you think.
Psychiatrist – This term can be confused with “Psychic”, but do not be fooled… Psychiatrist do not read minds. 😉 These individuals focus on diagnosing and treating mental disorders. Unlike the other professionals in this field, Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medication as a form of treatment. They also have connection to medical resources that may be necessary for the “Assessment” stage of therapy such as different types of computerized scans or imaging. These professionals may use psychotherapy and/or medication for treatment planning with clients.
Clinical Social Worker – These individuals are also a part of the “Helping Field”, and they purpose is to increase the quality of a person’s life in society. Social Workers must meet certain academic and licensure requirements before they are allowed to work as a professional. They help in areas related to abuse, domestic violence, community outreach, homelessness, children’s issues, etc. They often have multiple resources to offer families and individuals who are seeking better relationships within the community.
Therapist – This is an umbrella term for professionals in the “Helping Field” or Mental Health Field. A therapist may be either a Counselor, Psychotherapist, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Clinical Social Worker, or a combination of 2 or more of these. This is a broad, general, and appropriate term for professionals in the field. Both individuals working in the field and not working in the field are generally more comfortable with this term than some of the other terms. When looking for a therapist, you will want to know “What Kind” of therapist you need, and that is where the first set of descriptions become important.
Shrink – This term is informal and refers to the same group that the term “Therapist” refers to. It may not be the most appropriate term to use in certain circumstances. It is more of a slang term, and it not accepted by all professionals. The term can be demeaning to professionals and may be considered to “make light” of real psychological/mental health issues.
To learn more about Counselors, Psychologists, and Psychiatrists, check out these websites.
- http://www.apa.org (Psychologists)
Hope you enjoyed today’s “educational” post! If you are looking for some mental health assistance, be sure to know what you are looking for in your therapist. Often, professionals will charge a fee for their services. I hope you will not let that fee keep you from getting the help that you may need. Think of it this way: If you have a broken bone, you don’t let a medical bill keep you from getting the X-ray, cast, and proper therapy, right? If you are willing to dedicate time, effort, and money to your physical health, why would you not dedicate the same care to your mental health? The mental health field is not a scary place if you take the time to learn what it’s all about 🙂