These days there are numerous different types of help and support available for mental health. It can feel like a minefield, if you’re looking for help and you don’t know what type to go for. Here are four main groups of professionals who can help with mental health support:

  • A therapist – there are numerous different kinds of counsellors and therapists; it’s sort of an umbrella term for people who offer counselling and support. There is no degree or official qualification in “being a therapist” so if you’re choosing a therapist it’s best to talk to them, see what qualifications they have, approaches they take and so on. It’s important to find someone whose approach fits with your worldview and what you want to get out of it.
  • A counsellor – A counsellor is usually affiliated with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy but again they may have different approaches to their work. Counsellors will often just sit and listen to you talk, asking questions in order to encourage you to think about things for yourself without offering any sort of advice or guidance. It’s important that you find a counsellor with whom you feel safe and supported.
  • A psychologistA psychologist has a degree in psychology and rather than merely talking through your problems with you they are able to diagnose mental disorders – but not to prescribe medication. Psychologists will often work with a particular type of therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy so this is an important question to ask when you’re deciding who to work with.
  • A psychiatrist – A psychiatrist is a doctor who, like your GP, has trained for a minimum of seven years in medicine. Psychiatrists then go on to study for another four years before taking the exams of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. A Psychiatrist will often work with people who have more severe disorders such as schizophrenia, which require medical treatment

Whichever kind of professional you decide upon for mental health support, it is also important to bear in mind that each will have their own approach to mental health, deciding on their own tools. There is no one size fits all approach with mental health, and there is no guarantee that if you see a specific type of professional they will use a particular kind of approach. The best thing to do is to talk to the individual before making a decision. 

It is also worth bearing in mind that if you visit one professional they may decide after speaking to you that you would be better suited to a different kind of professional. For example, after a few sessions with a therapist they may refer to you to a psychiatrist to seek a formal diagnosis and some sort of medication. This is all perfectly normal, and important to bear in mind when thinking about the professional you want to visit.

The main goal for all concerned will be your continue mental health and wellbeing and every professional you speak to will have this at the top of their list, even if you don’t necessarily agree with what they say or do.

Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


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