Updated: Jun 5
Who is on your superhero wellness team? Why do you need more than one mental health professional?
Each profession has a role, and helps with slightly different issues within the umbrella of wellness. ALL are equally important and have roles in a balanced wellness plan.
Here's a breakdown:
A Psychiatrist or "shrink" in slang, is a must see for mental wellness. In Canada, we have a tendency to let family doctors diagnose and prescribe meds for "mental health issues" but this was meant only as a stop-gap. Because our access to psychiatrists is limited to referrals, family doctors started prescribing meds so that people had access while they waited. What happened, unfortunately, is that this has resulted in fewer people seeking a proper diagnosis for their disorders, resulting in fewer people accessing the proper medications, at the proper doses. Understanding that your depression is caused by untreated OCD, for example, allows you to treat the condition (OCD) instead of the symptom (depression). A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has been further trained to understand the intricacies of your brain and the medications that may be best for it. Remember, however, that medication is only one aspect to a healthy brain. Think of it like, if you were drowning in the ocean, medications and psychiatrists are like a life preserver. It will keep your head above water but won't get you any closer to the shore. The good news is, a psychiatrist is covered by Alberta Health Care.
People seem to use these interchangeably, even though there are slight differences. They all group under the "talk therapy" umbrella of your mental wellness team. In our drowning analogy, talk therapy is the nudge towards the shoreline. They will talk about how you arrived at a situation in life, and work with you to make sense of thoughts, behaviors and emotions.
A Psychologist will have at least a Masters (graduate) Degree in Psychology and will be licensed in Alberta by the College of Alberta Psychologists. The College will ensure that the psychologist has sufficient training in research, assessment and interventions.
Much to the surprise of many, a social worker is not a mental health professional. They have a degree - usually an undergrad/Bachelors Degree - in Social Work (B. S.W.) Social Workers help individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations to develop skills and resources. A "Back to Work" program for single mothers would typically be run by Social Workers.
A Counsellor or Life/Relationship Coach is a largely unregulated field, so make certain that the person you choose as part of your team is skilled, trained and knowledgeable. A Good Coach will know her role and her limits. If you are still drowning in the ocean, She will help you find the right person with a life jacket, another to give you that nudge, and then She will be the one walking beside you, telling you that it is ok to put your feet down and stand up, and to offer an arm to guide you. A Coach or Counsellor will deal with the now aspect of your life, to see and address what is real in this moment.
Because there is no overarching regulatory body, the range of Coaches is vast. There are those of the "woowoo" mindset where prayer and meditation will change the world, and there are those with a scientific approach. Personally, I find the best approach to be in the middle. I work with you in a mindful, specific goal oriented manner. And while my certificates are not from universities, know that I have put more educational hours in to honing My ability to help than would be required for a PhD.