Full Disclosure - I'm a psychologist, but I will try very hard to make sure I leave all my biases firmly tucked away in my subconscious.
As the numbers of individuals with mental ill health rises, having an understanding of the differences between a psychologist and psychiatrist, will no doubt come in handy at some point. Fingers crossed, this only ends up being down the local pub on quiz night!
Why does it matter?
You've probably already seen these two headline statistics:
'1 in 4 adults are struggling with mental ill health'
'1 in 10 children are struggling with mental illness'
You're possibly are aware that:
'By 2020 the World Health Organisation predicts depression to be the second reason for mortality worldwide'
& probably unaware that:
'75% of all mental illness starts before age 18'
The problem is, that these stark 'headline' statistics only ever tell half of the story.
Numbers can be useful, but if you're anything like me you'll be thinking 'Oh, that's sad for all those 1's' but then swiftly move on with all the stuff you need to do that day, week, month or year.
However, knowing that there is a chance you will struggle from chronic stress, depression and/or anxiety which will leave you feeling...
Images from: http://themindcircle.com/for-inktober-i-focused-on-mental-illness-and-disorders/
...may just help it hit home.
We all know that we can head to the GP if we're feeling physically, or mentally wobbly but once we have that 'magical' diagnosis - where next?
Trust me, doing research once you've already succumbed to mental illness is near impossible.
What is Psychologist?
Psychologists spend their whole education delving into the human mind, how it works and why we do what we do. Looking at the interplay between our thoughts, behaviours, familial history, social surroundings... in essence how we have become who we are.
Psychologists come in all shapes and sizes (not just looks!), there are a lot of different 'schools of thought' and this shapes the way in which a psychologist looks at mental illness. Some are 'holistic' and take into account biology, psychology and sociology (biopsychosocial psychologists), some are very technical and focused on the brain (neuropsychologists), some look back through our evolutionary history (evolutionary psycholosgists) and some (like me) take into account the biology, psychology and sociology but look at it through the eyes of a powerful interplay which shapes us into who we are now and who we will be based on choices we make (developmental psychologists). This list is not exhaustive, there are loads of us!
Clinical Psychologists will have completed a post graduate doctoral degree which delves into both diagnosis testing and clinical methods of treatment.
Psychologists are trained in psychological testing methods; psychometric tests, observation, clinical interview and formulation.
Psychologists will use the formulation to decide whether to use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Counselling, Psychotherapy, Systematic Family Therapy... or a combination of multiple different types of therapy to get you back on track.
Treatment under a psychologist is a partnership, with the psychologist bringing the tools and techniques to the table but you are relied on to 'do the work' in order to get better.
What is Psychiatrist?
Much like surgeons, psychiatrists are first medically trained doctors who after their initial training, choose to specialise and for psychiatrists it's in the area of mental illness.
Psychiatrists use a diagnostic system which catalogues patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours into different 'syndromes'.
Psychiatrists look at the individual's psychology and biology as well as their current situation to try and determine any causes for mental ill health.
Because psychiatrists are medically trained, they can prescribe medications and will often (although not always) incorporate medication management into treatment practices.
Psychiatrists, may also prescribe methods of psychotherapy, counselling, CBT... but do not carry out the therapy themselves.
As I'm not a psychiatrist, I needed to gather information from the internet to first find out what the difference really was and unfortunately, even heading to the Royal College Of Psychiatrists website left me with very little to report... But hopefully, has helped you a little?
Who should I see?
Whomever you like.
In all honesty, the only person who should be deciding who you see is you.
While I would love you all to bang down my door so that I can help you move forward, I'm not going to always be appropriate.
I've compiled a few questions below for you to help you work out where you are most aligned, because at the heart of this you need to remember, it's your health and you need to go whichever way is going to help you get better.
3 questions to ask yourself:
Please note, these are really simplified and only intended to give you a little nudge but do not dictate your path. & remember, you can always work with both!
After you've got an idea of who's door you should be knocking on, you also need to make sure that the psychologist or psychiatrist is right for you.
I'm very no-nonsense, pushy and straight talking and that definitely does not sit right with everyone out there! Make sure you spend some time getting to know the person who is going to be guiding you, observe them as much as they're observing you because there are 3 rules to recovery from mental illness:
If any of these three are out of alignment then you'll struggle to get better. It's not impossible, it's just a lot harder!
Have an awesome day & catch you soon - Katie x
p.s. - if you want a no-nonsense psychologist to help you move towards full mental health why not 'take me for a test drive'. Use the button below to book a free 'mini' therapy session where together we'll tackle one thing you're struggling with right now -
All Psychology Schools (n.d) Psychology vs. Psychiatry: Do You Know the Difference? from: https://www.allpsychologyschools.com/psychology/psychology-vs-psychiatry/
Royal College of Psychiatrists (2013) What is the difference between a Psychiatrist, a Clinical Psychologist and a Psychotherapist? from: http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/treatmentsandwellbeing/faqshowtogethelp/faqdifferencesbetween.aspx