Which mental health professional is right for me?
Getting help from the right mental health professional is important, but the process can also be confusing. Below is what you need to know about anf expect from different types of mental health professionals.
Mental Health Professionals
General Physician (GP)
A medical doctor who is trained as a general physician (GP) or family physician. Often, a GP is the initial point of contact for those experiencing mental health difficulties. GP’s can prescribe and review medications for conditions such as anxiety or depression. They will generally manage mild to moderate mental health concerns, and will refer to a psychiatrist for more severe situations.
A medical doctor who completed general medical training and specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health concerns. A psychiatrist can diagnose, prescribe medications, and assess a person’s safety when he/she is unwell. However, they often do not provide “talk” therapy to counsel patients.
A psychologist poses Doctoral training qualification in psychology (UK/US) with broad range of experiences. A psychologist is trained to make diagnoses and provide individual and group therapy. A psychologist draws on several different therapeutic models to treat mental health difficulties. They use a ‘formulation’ perspective; understanding why you feel a certain way, rather, than offering a medical diagnosis.
A counsellor, often, has a Masters degree in psychology, counselling or a related field. A counsellor is trained to talk to people experiencing distress and mental health concerns. They help process upsetting feelings and experiences.
A psychiatric nurse is a registered nurse with a specialization in mental health. A psychiatric nurse assesses, supports and advocates for patients with mental health concerns. As part of their role they follow up with patients and help with case management.
A registered social worker helps patients navigate the complex social welfare system through case management. They aim to help people access a variety of resources to support their wellbeing.
What to Expect?
When seeking help from a mental health professional, they will want to get to know more about you and what prompted you to seek help.
You will be asked about:
- Your mood, thoughts and behaviours – sometimes by using questionnaires or forms which measure depression and anxiety
- Your lifestyle and any recent events in your life that might be affecting your wellbeing
- Any sleep problems, changes in appetite or changes in your daily activities
- Your medical history and your family’s medical history
- When seeing a medical professional (psychiatrist, GP, psychiatric nurse) they might take your blood pressure, height and weight, as well as run blood tests to rule out any physical cause for your mood-state
Your first meeting with a mental health professional may lead to one or multiple recommendations, which may include any of the below:
- Monitoring: You may be asked to come back for another appointment before being offered any treatment or referral.
- Diagnosis: Your doctor or psychologist may give you a diagnosis, for example of depression or anxiety. This doesn’t always happen after your first appointment and may only be possible after monitoring you over time or referring you to a specialist.
- Lifestyle Changes: It may be recommended that you make small changes to your exercise, eating and sleeping habits.
- Referral: Your doctor could refer you to see a psychologist or counsellor for talk-therapy, or psychiatrist for a more detailed assessment and medication management
- Self-Referral: Your mental health professional may give you detail of services you can contact yourself, for example a therapist or a non-governmental organization (NGO).
- Medication: Your doctor might offer to prescribe you psychiatric medication. If they do this they should clearly explain what it is for and explain any possible risks, benefits and side effects, so you can make an informed choice about whether or not you want to take medication.