Understanding Your Mental Health Care: Therapists vs. Psychiatrists

At Array, we know that navigating mental health care options can be confusing. Understanding the differences between therapists and psychiatrists, and their respective roles in your treatment, is essential to making informed decisions about your care. Here’s a clear guide to help you understand these roles and the types of treatment they provide.

Therapists: Your Guide in Talk Therapy

Who are Therapists?

Therapists are trained professionals who provide psychotherapy (talk therapy) to help you manage and overcome mental health issues. They can be psychologists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, or social workers with a master's or doctoral degree in psychology, counseling, social work, or a related field. Their primary focus can be on helping you understand and change your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, manage emotions, handle difficult situations, or simply provide support during challenging times and reflect back a new perspective on yourself.

What is Talk Therapy?

Talk therapy involves speaking with a therapist to explore your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Through various therapeutic approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), motivational interviewing, desensitization therapy, internal family systems therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or humanistic therapy, therapists help you develop coping strategies, improve emotional regulation, and work through personal challenges.

How Can a Therapist Help You?

  • Emotional Support: Providing a safe, non-judgmental space to express your feelings.
  • Behavioral Changes: Helping you identify and change negative patterns of thinking and behavior.
  • Coping Strategies: Teaching you practical tools to manage stress, anxiety, depression, and other issues.
  • Personal Growth: Supporting you in achieving personal goals and improving overall well-being.

Psychiatrists: Medical Experts in Mental Health

Who are Psychiatrists?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MD, DO, or NP) who specialize in diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. After completing medical school, they undergo additional training in psychiatry, which equips them to address the biological aspects of mental health conditions.

What is Medication Management?

Medication management involves using medications to treat mental health disorders. Psychiatrists evaluate your symptoms, prescribe appropriate medications, and monitor their effectiveness and side effects. This approach is often used for conditions that may have a biological component, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression.

How Can a Psychiatrist Help You?

  • Integrated Care: Combining medication with psychotherapy for a holistic approach; we encourage every patient on medication to also see a therapist.
  • Diagnosis: Identifying mental health conditions through comprehensive evaluations.
  • Medication Prescriptions: Providing and adjusting medications to manage symptoms effectively.
  • Medical Interventions: Addressing complex mental health issues with specialized medical treatments.

Choosing the Right Care for You

Deciding between a therapist and a psychiatrist depends on your individual needs and preferences. Here’s a quick guide to help you choose:

Choose a Therapist if You Want to Focus on:

  • Talking through your issues
  • Developing coping mechanisms
  • Changing negative thought patterns
  • Emotional, motivational and behavioral support
  • Improving relationships

Choose a Psychiatrist if You Need:

  • Medical diagnosis of mental health conditions
  • Prescription medications
  • Management of severe or complex mental health issues
  • Integrated care combining medication and talk therapy

If you are unsure which option is best for you, we recommend starting with a therapist. They can assist you in navigating the decision-making process with professional and supportive guidance.

Why Choose Array?

At Array, we offer comprehensive mental health care tailored to your needs. Whether you need the empathetic guidance of a therapist or the medical expertise of a psychiatrist, our team is here to support you on your journey to mental wellness.

If you are in crisis, call 988 to talk with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, text HOME to 741741 to connect to a free crisis counselor, or go to your nearest emergency room.