Mental Health

What is the difference between a Psychiatrist and a Therapist?


A psychiatrist is a Medical Doctor (M.D.) who has graduated from a medical school. A psychiatrist’s training focuses on general medicine while in medical school. They will then go on to 3-4 years of residency where they will specialize in psychiatry. While for many years in the past, the psychiatrist normally prescribed medications and also delivered psychotherapy, their roles have changed today. For the most part, psychiatrists now do psychiatric evaluations for the purpose of determining if an individual would be appropriate for treatment with medications. If so determined,  the psychiatrist prescribes the medications and then follows the patient for medication management. Medication management includes initially following the patient closely until they are stabilized with the proper dosage ( usually once every 1-2 weeks until stabilization occurs) and then usually once every 1-3 months for maintenance.

Therapist and Counsellors

A counsellor and a therapist will utilise psychotherapy to help clients going through mental health difficulties. In some cases, professionals may choose to call themselves a psychotherapist. Others may refer to themselves as a counsellor or simply a therapist.

Some experts believe that while areas of these professions overlap, psychotherapists work on longer-term concerns and have the training to reflect this. Others argue that there is little to no distinction between the professions. Many counsellors now undergo similar extensive training as psychotherapists. Checking a professional’s experience, training and qualifications is always advised. This will give you a better understanding of how they can help support your needs.

When we talk about counselling, we are referring to one-to-one, group or couple meetings. In these settings, people are free to talk about their feelings to a trained professional. This takes place in a confidential environment.

A counselling session  may simply involve the client and counsellor talking through concerns with no specified structure or agenda. Alternatively, a counsellor may use a specific form of psychotherapy to help the client.

If you feel you need to speak to someone about an issue you can find a comprehensive list of English-Speaking Therapists and Counsellors in the ESHA directory here


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