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Brain representing many thoughts how psychotherapy can help

We all go through times of trouble, be it periods of sadness, anger, or grief. And we all have times when we just don’t want to carry on with our normal routines because we’re feeling a little low or not quite right.  There are many reasons why people seek help from a counsellor or psychotherapist. Although it’s a completely normal thing to want to seek help, a lot of people are still concerned that going to psychotherapy means they’re not ‘strong enough’, or that only ‘crazy’ people need that kind of help.

But this is merely a negative stereotype that does not encompass the true helpful nature of psychotherapy services.  Because everyone has points in their life when things aren’t quite right, there’s nothing wrong with seeking outside help from a trained professional. It’s a myth that everyone needs to deal with their issues on their own. Some issues people face are much better processed with the help of an outside professional. In fact, some issues that people go through cannot be shared with a trusted friend or family member due to a number of reasons, and so people build up these feelings inside. This is a great time to explore psychotherapy.

With plenty of different labels and professions that offer therapy, it’s sometimes hard to know where to turn to. There are three main types of professionals you may see when seeking psychotherapy; a counsellor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. There are a few differences between the three, so it’s best to understand what kind of help you may need to ensure you seek the correct help.

A counsellor is a person who is often able to listen and talk through issues with you, usually ones that are short term. Such issues could include major arguments with close people in your life, marriage guidance, or issues at work or in your personal life, however there are many other issues a counsellor can work with. A counsellor will be able to go through a talk-based therapy with you. They should NOT tell you what you should do in any situation, as that is completely up to you to decide. Instead, a counsellor will be able to listen to your issues, ask about how you feel, and react to them and help you guide yourself through the issue and situation, and together discuss potential options.

If you seek advice from a counsellor but they believe that you may benefit from further help, they may suggest you seek help from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or maybe see a general practitioner.

A psychologist is a therapist who has specialists University training in psychology, and will be recognised by a professional body in Australia. In addition to a degree, a psychologist is required to have been supervised by another fully trained and qualified psychologist before taking on their own clients.

Many people seek help from a psychologist if their issues and concerns are a little more complex than what a counsellor may be able to help with. Generally, sessions with a psychologist would run anywhere between 1 and 20 sessions, depending on the complexity of the issue.

Some of the issues that would be best addressed by a psychologist include mental health issues like depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, panic disorder, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A psychologist is trained to understand the complexities of such issues a lot more than a counsellor, and will also be able to provide more types of psychotherapy other than just talk-therapy (although this is still a foundation for all professional therapists).

A psychologist will understand and listen to what your issues are, and address the kinds of needs you will require in order to start feeling better again. Your first session will usually just consist of talking about who you are, your interests, a background history of yourself, and gathering information about your friends and family and those around you. The first session will discuss what kinds of problems have arisen for you recently, and discuss how the psychologist can help. From there, they will develop more sessions with you and start working with you using different methods of therapy.

Some of the types of therapy offered by psychologists include:

  • Behavioural,
  • Cognitive behavioural,
  • Dialectical behavioural,
  • Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Interpersonal,
  • Family,
  • Group, and
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy.

Your psychologist will tell you what therapy/s they would like to try with you, and explain the features and how they believe it will benefit you and your situation.

The need to see a psychiatrist is often determined by either your doctor or a psychologist you have been seeing, who may think you would benefit from seeing a psychiatrist instead. The key difference between a psychiatrist and psychologist is that a psychiatrist is medically trained and able to prescribe medications in the same way that a doctor can. Psychiatrists will discuss with you their thoughts on the types of medications they think will benefit you, and inform you of how they will react to you and your therapy.

Seeking psychotherapy doesn’t mean you are weak or you are ‘crazy’. In fact, many people who seek therapy often feel a lot better after even one session. There is no shame in seeking outside help, if anything it is admirable and means you are taking responsibility to help yourself!

Some of the biggest reasons you should consider help are:

  • You’re feeling very sad, angry, or not yourself,
  • You’re abusing drugs, alcohol, food, or sex to cope,
  • You’ve lost someone close to you,
  • You have experienced something traumatic,
  • You feel as though you cannot do the things you used to,
  • Your relationships are strained, or
  • Your friends have told you they are concerned about you.

Talking to someone neutral with professional experience can help you to work through your problems, see a different perspective, and help you move forward in life. If you feel it’s time you seek help for some challenges in your life, we’re here to listen and ensure you get the best help possible. Contact Integrated Health Specialists to see how we can help you.

Michelle van Namen
Author: Michelle van Namen