Hi guys and welcome to today’s session. I’m Gilles Brideau, I am a psychotherapist, coach, counselor in Sudbury in North Ontario Canada.
I thought I’d do a quick video today about when you are going for help. Kind of some key differences psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, coaches, it can get really confusing when you’re already looking for help and you’re wondering which is which, and what do they do. I just kind of put together something simple today that I hope you find beneficial and informative. What is really the difference between, like I said, a psychiatrist, and all these other designations?
Now the first one we’re going to start off with is a psychiatrist. To understand that a psychiatrist is really a medical doctor. It’s a medical doctor that had additional training in their specialization, which is in mental health and mental disorders. Now, a psychiatrist, really when you see them they will look at you just like a medical doctor will. They’ll look at signs, symptoms based on criteria, which is usually the diagnostic and statistical manual, and will give you medications accordingly. Similar to when you see a doctor for a common cold they look at what your symptoms are, and they will prescribe and antibiotic or whatever. The hope is that the cold will clear. In psychiatry they look at you in kind of the same way.
Now, this is where it has been kind of confusing for some of my clients because they go see a psychiatrist expecting to have kind of a talk therapy session. Unfortunately that’s not really the psychiatrists role. Most psychiatrists really don’t have time. The average psychiatrist in our region is about a year or so wait time. The psychiatrist role is really to kind of monitor the medication and make sure the patient is doing well in terms of their mental health, and mental illness.
The next 1, the next category is a psychologist. Now psychologists have PhD’s, so they’re also considered doctors, but they’re doctors are in the philosophy of psychology. What they do is they usually study how we think, feel, and behave from a scientific point of view. Then this understanding helps them explain and change the person or the clients behavior. This is more traditionally what people expect when they say a therapist. It’s kind of like you sit down, and you talk to someone. Again, they could be using different strategies, and again these people usually have … or this category, sorry. They usually have advanced degrees. They usually have gone to school for anywhere between 8+ years. A lot of times, I know in the province of Ontario, if you have counseling covered through your extended benefit packages, it’s usually for psychologists.
Although more and more clinical social workers and psychotherapists, which I’m going to cover in a minute, have been getting covered. Traditionally it has just been for psychologists. The other thing that psychologists can do is they could perform assessments. They will give you kind of a battery of tests to kind of determine exactly where you’re at. That’s especially useful if you’re struggling with vocation, or you’re struggling with just not really identifying or knowing why specifically you have certain issues. They will perform these psychological tests, and they have the qualifications to interpret the data, and the information, and make appropriate plans of care accordingly.
The next bracket is psychotherapist. Now, that’s what I am. This is more of a general term for counseling that supports a client’s desire to explore, distress, and the impact that it has on their quality of life. Now, in the province of Ontario, in order to be a registered psychotherapist, which is what I am, you have to go through a series of examinations and sets of standards so that it’s in order to protect the public so that you get the possible best level of care. Now also know that for psychotherapy, it’s similar in a way to what a psychologist will do, just we can’t diagnose, and obviously we can’t give medication. The same thing for a psychologist, they can’t give medications because we’re both not medical doctors.
A psychotherapist is more what people traditionally think about when they think about therapy. That 1 to 1 interaction with someone that will help them kind of reach their goals long term. Know that the term, “Counselor, therapist, and psychotherapist,” are often generally interchangeable. Again in the province of Ontario the word, “Psychotherapist,” is a specific designation that is associated with registration in the province through the college of psychotherapist. That’s the major difference there.
Next category is social worker. What does social workers do? Social workers are very similar to psychotherapists in terms of the fact that they can do therapy, but social workers are more trained to see the individual within the environment, rather than just the individual understand and cope with their problems. Now, a lot of times social workers have more of an advocate role too. They can help people obtain concrete things like food, shelter, and they often advocate for their clients with regards to dealing with agencies, and that sort of thing. That’s more of a social worker role.
Now that’s not to say that social workers are not also in private practice. I’ve worked with some colleagues that are in fact social workers. Like I mentioned before, it’s getting more and more recognized in the province for people with extended benefits, that you can see a master level social worker, or master level psychotherapist in order to have it covered by your extended benefits. I guess it’s every person to do their own research as to what they are covered by as it pertains to their own agencies.
The last category I’m going to cover is coach and/or life coach. Coach don’t focus necessarily on the distress conflict or pain in the life, but instead focus more on helping a person through personal growth, and on very actionable outcomes. Coaching is a lot more based on outcomes. The metaphor I like using is when you see a therapist often times, they help you see and distinguish … like if you, let’s say you’re driving down a highway heading from point A to point B, and along your journey there’s something that breaks your windshield. A therapist, psychologist often look at what are the possible causes for the break. Sometimes it’s more about looking at your past, how things have got there. Where as a coach would kind of just go, “Okay, what’s the best way to replace the windshield so we get more towards the goal?”
This is kind of a branch that I’m now designated in, and I’m heading more towards because it’s more focused on actionable outcomes. It’s more very directed in terms of where a person would like to go. We deal a lot less as coaches in terms of the past, it’s more about the present and how we’re going to get to a much more compelling future.
That kind of hopefully helps you. The only last things that I would add is a lot of times people’s access to services could be done through your employees assistance programs through your employer. A lot of times it’s a 1-800 number that is often in lunch rooms, or that you can obtain through your human resources department. Where you can get access, although limited, to care with therapists, counselors, and psychotherapists in your community. I say limited because the average EAP cover is around 3 sessions, sometimes it could get extended, but it’s around 3 sessions. Like I said, mentioned before, through your extended benefits sometimes more and more companies are willing to offer coverage for psychotherapy, and social work in addition to of course psychologists.
Again, I hope that this has been helpful today. Please leave me comments, likes, or anything that may be of benefit. Any videos you’d like to see in the future. With that, I wish you a great day and we’ll talk soon. Take care.