Which Type of Mental Health Professional Should You Approach?

Seeking help can often feel overwhelming, especially knowing who to approach as there is a lot of overlap between various types of mental health professionals. While counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists all share the same underlying goal to work with you to address and overcome your difficulties, there are notable differences which are important to consider when seeking support.

What is a counsellor?

A counsellor is a mental health professional you would see if you are experiencing an issue which can be dealt with on a conscious level. This often includes relationship problems, self-esteem or personal development issues and stress management. Some counsellors may have a special interest in other areas, and can provide more specific help with other issues including anxiety, grief and loss, anger management or depression. Counsellors are trained experts in active listening and work with clients to help identify their issues, explore possible solutions and develop strategies. Unlike psychologists and psychiatrists, counsellors do not usually diagnose or perform assessments. They will support people with mild to moderate symptoms of mental illness however if you are experiencing moderate to severe symptoms, a psychologist or psychiatrist would be more appropriate.

What is a psychologist?

There are a lot of similarities between counsellors and psychologists. While both provide support and treatment for various psychological issues, psychologists have special training and can work on specific mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder, serious depression, personality disorders, schizophrenia and any other outlined in the DSM-5 manual. Unlike counsellors, psychologists will likely conduct in depth assessments during your initial sessions in order to gain a complete diagnosis.

If you believe you are experiencing a specific mental health condition such as the ones mentioned above, you can visit your GP for a mental health care plan which can be used with a psychologist. Unlike counselling which is typically short-term, psychologists provide long-term therapy to help manage and reduce your symptoms. The mental health-care plan begins with six sessions however you can use up to 20 sessions per calendar year on this plan.

What is a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a qualified medical practitioner. Unlike counsellors or psychologists, psychiatrists are able to prescribe medication and treat a wide range of mental illnesses using medical interventions. You might consider seeing a psychiatrist if you are experiencing debilitating mental health symptoms or if you are interested in pursuing medication for symptom relief.

For all psychiatry patients, a GP referral is necessary.

Counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists are all trained to help you improve your life outcomes. Deciding which mental health professional to see depends on various factors including the nature of the problem you are facing, the severity of your symptoms and whether you would want to pursue medication. If you are still unsure, a good first step would be to visit your GP and ask for some advice.

To learn more about our mental health professionals or to book an appointment, please call our reception team on 1800 327 477 (AU) 0800 327 477 (NZ) or click here.

Izzy Seddon

Isabella Seddon
AU Counsellor

To book with Isabella, please contact 1800 327 477

Guest Post By PMW Counsellor Isabella Seddon

Izzy is an Australian counsellor who has completed a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours). She adopts a warm and empathetic approach to therapy and has a particular interest in anxiety-related issues which stem from her experience working on an anxiety helpline. Other areas of interest include, self-esteem issues, Relationship difficulties, Mood issues, Motivation issues, Impulsive behaviours, Stress management, Emotional dysregulation.