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Should You See a Counselor, Psychologist, or Psychiatrist?

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By: burgundy bug

Vector illustration of various aspects in psychology

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One of the many hurdles in seeking mental health treatment is deciding where to go and who would provide the support you’re looking for.

Although affordability remains the top reason why many people don’t seek treatment for depression, a recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health found “not knowing where to go for treatment” is another major concern for individuals.

Sponsorship Disclosure: This post was brought to you in part by BetterHelp, an online counseling platform that strives to expand access to professional, affordable, and convenient mental health care.
You can begin your journey towards better health by connecting with a licensed BetterHelp counselor that suits your needs.

Thank you for supporting our community and for supporting so many around the globe through your services.

“Therapy” in and of itself is an umbrella term. Going to therapy could indicate you’re seeing a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, a social worker, a behavioral health specialist, or a number of other professionals.

While all of these professionals are eager to guide you towards better mental health, the type of service provided by each one will vary. Understanding the differences between a counselor, psychologist, and a psychiatrist will help you decide which care is right for you.

Table of Contents

What is a Counselor?

A counselor is a very broad term. They may be an individual with a background in psychology and a certification in mental health counseling or a more niche line of work — for example, marriage, couple, and family counseling.

On the other hand, a counselor may refer to a life coach or spiritual guide.

In any case, a certified counselor provides a listening ear, an empathetic shoulder to lean on, and advice to help you improve your daily life.

Seeing a counselor is also a more affordable option for some individuals, as there are free counseling hotlines and other resources available.

However, that does not mean the quality of care is any lesser. It’s simply a different type of mental health care that’s being offered.

What is a Psychologist?

“Licensed psychologists are doctoral-level specialists with more training in mental health than any other professional group,” says the Oregon Psychological Association. “Accredited doctoral programs in health-services psychology require a median of seven years of training beyond the bachelor’s degree.”

While psychologists do have a doctorate, they aren’t medical doctors. Rather, they have an advanced degree, such as a PsyD or P.h.D.

Psychologists often specialize in particular approaches to treatment, too. For example, some may specialize in behavioral health techniques like CBT, while others may take a more psychoanalytic approach to therapy.

Furthermore, a psychologist may specialize in specific conditions, such as substance use disorder, anxiety, or depression.

What is a Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors. They’re trained in assessing and treating both the psychological and physical aspects of mental health.

Additionally, psychiatrists are licensed to prescribe medications for mental health, including antidepressants and antipsychotics.

Many psychiatrists provide mental health services similar to those offered by psychologists, such as talk therapy. The main difference is a psychiatrist may have a more pharmacological approach to treatment, offering the patient medications to help manage their symptoms.

Should I See a Counselor, Psychologist, or Psychiatrist?

Whether you see a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist, all three want to help you thrive. Only you will know which is right for you — and even then, don’t settle.

If you feel your needs aren’t being met by one psychologist, it doesn’t mean “all psychologists are bad, I should see a psychiatrist instead.” You can still see a psychologist, you’ll just have to do some research first to find one who truly resonates with you.

A counselor can provide you with general life advice and mental health support, especially in times of need. Depending on the type of counselor you see, they may have a more personable, holistic, yet professional approach to treatment.

If the counselor believes you may benefit from additional services, they may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

To begin your journey towards better mental health, visit BetterHelp to speak with a licensed counselor or psychologist. Their platform provides affordable and accessible care at your convenience.

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burgundy bug


A cynical optimist and mad scientist undercover, burgundy bug is the editor, graphic designer, webmaster, social media manager, and primary photographer for The Burgundy Zine. Entangled in a web of curiosity, burgundy bug’s work embodies a wide variety of topics including: neuroscience, psychology, ecology, biology, cannabis, reviews, fashion, entertainment, and politics. You can learn more about working with burgundy bug by visiting her portfolio website: burgundybug.com

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