There are so many types of mental health professionals; therapists, psychiatrist, psychologists and yes, some life coaches consider themselves part of this group. In this blog I will be explaining what each one is educated to do, what type of training they have and what types of problems they specialize in.

Let us start with coaches.

What Is A Life Coach?

Coaches and life coaching has become very popular in the past twenty years. Anthony Robbins, one of most known life coaches, with a list of published books, has helped popularize this line of work. Many go to his seminars feeling invigorated and inspired to become just like him. There are courses and certifications that life coaches can take, but it is not necessary. Many people in the industry aren’t certified and give those that do a bad reputation. Life coaches can be very useful for helping you discover new skills, finding a new job, learning how to overcome certain obstacles, etc. Coaching focuses on the future and does not delve much into the past. Unfortunately, since life coaches are not regulated by any licensing board, you may find that they have the opposite effect. The problem is they are limited in scope of practice and in training.

What Is a Mental Health Therapist?

Mental Health therapists are counselors, social workers, psychotherapists, family therapists that have received at least a masters in their field. In most states they have gone through more than 5000 hours of training and supervision. Mental health professionals have to be licensed by their state board in order to work and conduct therapy with individuals, family and/or couples. A therapist’s training allows them to work with people who have severe mental health related issues, but they also work with individuals who are highly functioning but want more out of life by utilizing coaching tools and techniques. A few therapists may have opted to getting a specialized doctoral degree, but it is not necessary to be a mental health counselor.

Therapy focuses on the client or patient expressing their issues verbally, in order to resolve them. It is were the term ‘talk-therapy’ really stems from. There are over 200 types of therapy modalities such as that will be a topic for another day. People see therapists because they experience symptoms of a mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic-stress disorder to name a few, and they want to feel better. Therapy can help individuals gain insight and create-self awareness by getting to the root of the underlying issue.

People typically see a therapist because they have symptoms of a mental health issue and want to feel and function better. Therapy also helps individuals by increasing insight and self-awareness by identifying the roots of issues and problematic thinking.

How is a Psychologist Different From A Therapist?

The main difference is that psychologist have a much longer schooling and are trained for testing. All psychologist have to be licensed and have a PhD or PsyD. The difference is that those with a PhD are more researched focused while those with a PsyD are more clinically focused. You might wonder what is testing? Psychologists have specialized training that allows them to use tests on individuals such as intelligence, personality, psychological tests. These tests can only be done by psychologists with specialized training. Most adults that are able to function on a day to day basis will not need these. They are often times used for children in school and individuals with extreme mental health conditions.

You might wonder if psychologists do therapy? Yes, they do. A psychologist can be a therapist but not vice versa. Often times a psychologist’s training is very focused on mental health issues that require more attention. This may be why they are very quick to diagnose clients with a mental health disorder. For client’s seeking therapy and not testing, they may opt either way.

What Is A Psychiatrist?

The major difference between psychiatrist and the other mental health professions just described is that psychiatrist are medical doctors. That means they go to medical school, similar to your general health practitioner, just with a different specialization. The focus of psychiatrist is that they work from a medical perspective and prescribe medications. Most psychiatrist base their sessions on medication management, rather than psychotherapy or any behavioral interventions plans. Often times psychotherapists and/or psychologists work in tandem with psychiatrist to provide the most effective treatment for patients, who need medication.

Most of the time patients/clients will not need medication and with the help of therapy will resolve their ongoing issues. Remember, each person is different and some may very much benefit from medication, while others are fine without it. It is similar to having a cold, there are many different types of colds and at times you may need something to help you get over it. If you have any doubt please contact a mental health provider and they will be able to assist you further.