Magdalena Ratajczyk - psychoterapeuta, pedagog

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Psychologist, psychotherapist or perhaps a psychiatrist? Which mental health professional should you choose?

What do you think is the most common question asked by people seeking help from a mental health professional? Bingo! Most of the time it is the question of which specialist to go to for help with a particular problem - a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a psychotherapist or perhaps a coach? What is the difference between these professions and what can you expect from them?

  1. A psychologist is a person with a master’s degree (sometimes a doctorate) in psychology who studies human behaviour, emotions and thoughts. A psychologist can provide psychological diagnosis and assessment and can help you deal with a range of problems and challenges in your life, but this is more likely to be a short-term, interventionist service aimed at supporting you through a difficult time. However, if you want to work on change, changing patterns of behaviour, dealing with a more complex problem, you should see a psychotherapist (yes, not every psychologist is a psychotherapist and not every psychotherapist is a psychologist).

  2. A psychotherapist is a person with a Masters or PhD who has undergone an additional 4 years of training in psychotherapy and is qualified to carry out individual, family, couple or group psychotherapy. A good psychotherapist should have undergone his or her own psychotherapy (this is required by most psychotherapy schools) and work under supervision, i.e. under the guidance of an experienced psychotherapist. Psychotherapists help patients resolve a variety of emotional and psychological problems (such as depression, anxiety, relationship problems, work problems, etc.) by changing the negative thinking and functioning patterns that we reproduce in our lives. This is work that takes several months to several years, but results in lasting change.

  3. psychiatrist - is a doctor who specialises in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental disorders. A psychiatrist can prescribe psychotropic medication and provide drug therapy. Unlike a psychologist or psychotherapist, a psychiatrist focuses mainly on the medical and pharmacological aspects of mental disorders.

  4. Mediator - is a person who helps to resolve conflicts and disputes between parties without bias or emotional involvement. The mediator does not give advice or opinions, but helps the parties to find a common solution to the problem through dialogue and negotiation. The mediator helps to reach an agreement in cases such as divorce, division of property or child custody.

  5. Coach - a professional who has completed a coaching course and helps clients to achieve specific life or career goals. A coach is not involved in psychotherapy or therapy, but motivates and advises clients in setting goals, creating action strategies and dealing with obstacles. He or she is a person who helps to achieve goals, but is strictly focused on that goal and not on permanent psychological change.

As you can see, there are quite a few differences. When choosing a specialist, it is worth focusing on your own needs and goals. It is worth remembering that any of the professionals mentioned can be a valuable support in dealing with difficulties and improving quality of life.