We all experience ups and downs. We have periods when everything around us is going great, and we also experience times when everything seems to be crashing down at once.
When we are faced with negative feelings about situations we deem too out of control to handle, we might seek help from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other professional counselor such as a social worker.
Psychologist vs psychiatrist: What’s the difference?
Psychologists help people cope with problems that stem from life events and mental health problems.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “psychologists work with patients to change their feelings and attitudes and help them develop healthier, more effective patterns of behavior.”
Psychiatrists, on the other hand, are licensed medical doctors (MD or DO) who specialize in mental health, including substance abuse disorders. These professionals are qualified to assess an individual’s mental and psychological problems, and they can prescribe medication to help, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
When should you seek therapy?
According to the APA, you should consider professional therapy services from a licensed professional if you:
- Feel overwhelmed, helpless, or sad for a prolonged period
- Find it difficult to complete daily tasks and activities
- Worry excessively or always expect the worst outcome
- Cause harm to yourself or others through your actions
If you think you need to talk to a therapist, don’t worry. You’re not alone. The National Institute of Mental Health says more than 30 million Americans need assistance dealing with their feelings about problems that seem beyond their control.
There are many life events and circumstances that could make you desire to seek counseling services, including loss of a job, death of a loved one, extreme stress, burnout, and depression
How do you know you’ve found the right therapist?
The first thing you should do is make sure your counselor’s credentials are in order. In Pennsylvania, psychologists are required to obtain a doctoral degree (Phd, PsyD or EdD) and must be licensed to practice. Psychiatrists must complete medical school and residency, with a specialization in psychiatry, and then pass state licensure requirements.
The next important consideration is the personal connection you have with that person. Therapy requires collaboration to get to the root of your problems, so it’s important to evaluate your personal comfort with him or her.
You want to have a good rapport and make sure it’s the right match for you. Once you think you’ve found that person, here are questions you should ask:
- Are you licensed? How many years have you been practicing?
- What are your areas of expertise—working with children and families, mental health?
- What types of insurance do you accept? Will you accept direct billing to or payment from my insurance company? Are you affiliated with any managed care organizations? Do you accept Medicare or Medicaid insurance?
Visit www.apa.org/helpcenter/choose-therapist.aspx to view additional questions.
If you don’t think you need a psychologist or psychiatrist, you may wish to seek counseling from a licensed clinical social worker or other qualified therapist.
Does insurance cover therapy services? Check mental health coverage first.
You can pay for therapy services with your insurance or out of pocket. Before dishing out your own cash, check with your insurance company to see if it covers a psychologist under mental health services.
Find a therapist in Pennsylvania near you:
Use the APA’s Psychologist Locator to find a therapist in Pennsylvania.
Just enter your ZIP code and a provider name or specialty to view a list of psychologists near you. Carefully vet each one, and check with your insurance before making any decisions.