We have all heard that awareness regarding psychological problems and disorders is much needed and people need to be made to realize that visiting a mental health professional is just like visiting a doctor for a cold or a fever. But what if that’s not the only hurdle in getting the right help to people? What if people WANT help but don’t the right person to visit, and when the experience is not up to their expectations, it deters them from seeking further help? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

In my experience of 10 years as a Clinical Psychologist, there were numerous occasions where the potential client I was seeing wasn’t clear on what I do or didn’t know that how is what I do different from say, a psychiatrist or a neurologist. I am gradually realising that if people only knew exactly who they need to see for what kind of problems, their entire experience with mental health professionals would be so much more positive. So that’s why, I bring to you today a quick look at major mental health professionals in a nutshell!

PSYCHIATRIST: A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has finished his/her MD in Psychiatry after their MBBS. They are trained in the biology of psychological disorders and in their pharmacological treatment. Psychiatrists are the ones, who prescribe the right medicines for psychiatric disorders like Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Severe anxiety and many others. So if you have been diagnosed with any kind of psychiatric problems, or if you suspect you have a problem, you can make your first stop a well-qualified psychiatrist’s clinic who will be able to give you the correct diagnosis based on your symptoms.

PSYCHOLOGIST: A Psychologist has a Master’s degree in psychology. There are mainly two kinds of psychologists who deal with clients directly – Clinical Psychologist and Counselling Psychologist. Clinical Psychologists work closely with Psychiatrists in the psychotherapeutic treatment of clients once the medication has been prescribed by the psychiatrist. A Clinical Psychologist usually has an M.Phil. in Clinical Psychology and a license and registration with the Rehabilitation Council of India which is known as a CRR No. If the Clinical Psychologist you are visiting has a CRR No. then you can rest assured that this professional has receive intensive practical training in psychotherapy and treatment of psychological and emotional problems. So you have full rights to ask your psychologist if they have a CRR No. It’s your prerogative! A Counselling psychologist usually has a MA or MSc in Counselling Psychology from a reputable institution.

There is a difference between the two. A Clinical Psychologist is trained to deal with serious mental illnesses and their psychotherapy as well as marital/couple therapy, family therapy, therapy for children and also extensively trained in psychological assessment like intelligence testing, personality assessment and assessment of problems like anxiety and depression. They use specific non-pharmacological scientific techniques that are based in theory and research, to treat psychological problems in a systematic manner. Counselling psychologists are trained to guide and provide advice on everyday life issues like adjustment problems at home or work, academic and school problems, decision making, etc.

COUNSELOR: A counselling psychologist is also sometimes referred to as a counsellor. A counsellor has a diploma in certain specific types of counselling like career counselling and is quite specific to their area of expertise. For example, a career counsellor may not be able to provide guidance regarding adjustment in a marital relationship.

NEUROLOGIST: A Neurologist is a medical doctor with a specialisation in brain problems resulting from biological causes like brain injuries, nerve blockages, blood clots etc. Neurologists are the right professionals to visit if you see changes in a person after an accident or a fall and injury or when symptoms seem to appear suddenly in a person.

NEUROPSYCHOLOGIST: A Neuropsychologist is someone with a psychology background, trained in assessment of neuropsychological functions of the brain, for example, right brain, left brain, and they study the connection between the biological basis of the brain and its psychological manifestations. They can also be very useful for children suffering from learning disabilities like dyslexia, reading disability, hand-eye co-ordination problems etc.

So there you have it – a glance at the major mental health professionals you are likely to visit if you are facing psychological, emotional or psychiatric problems in your life or with your loved ones. I sincerely hope that this overview has made things clearer for everyone out there and now you are in a much better position to make an informed decision about which professional to visit based on what is it that you want resolved. More power to you!

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