Choosing a Therapist

Psychiatrist or Psychologist: What’s the difference?

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Psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and psychotherapists have all been professionally trained to help people with psychological distress or mental illness. What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

  • A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has completed a specialty in Psychiatry, following their training as a doctor.
  • Whilst psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists often work together in the treatment of patients, psychologists and therapists are not authorized to write prescriptions, but may refer a client to see a psychiatrist for medication.
  • Psychiatrists will remain part of the support network for the patient while they are on medication, or if they have been deemed high risk.
  • Your psychiatrist will monitor your medication and change it if required, and will act as your advisory should you have any questions relating to the medication, such as side effects, dosage and if or when you should increase or decrease it.
Psychologist/Psychotherapist :
  • It is typically a psychologist who will carry out on-going therapy (although some Psychiatrists opt to do additional training in a particular therapy, such as systemic therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy).
  • Therapy may include treatment for a variety of mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression, so it is worthwhile checking with your Therapist to find out what area they specialize in.
  • Psychologists are also able to carry out specialized assessments, such as intellectual or cognitive functioning, which may include screening for a number of concerns, such as ADHD, ASD or dyslexia.

Psychologist or Coach: What’s the difference?

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While the overall goal of both is to help the client function better in their lives, there are some major differences between a psychologist and a coach. Some of the differences include:

Some of the differences include:

  • A psychologist is specifically trained to work with mental health concerns, focusing on pathology and illness. Coaches tend to make healthy clients better.
  • Psychologists often work to a prescribed method and follow a particular clinical model, whereas Coaching has few tangible rules and is more focused on empowering functional individuals.
  • Therapy with a psychologist can be open-ended and on-going, and coaches tend to work to time-limited interventions.
  • Clients of psychologists may constantly battle aspects of their life that need to change in order for them to function. Coaching is often for those individuals who want to make change in their life, rather than need the change.
  • Therapy looks into the past to see how those early events may have shaped the individual you are today. Therapy also strives to heal those unpleasant experiences and the beliefs you hold about them. Coaching, however, rarely asks about childhood or early life experiences, it focuses primarily on the future.

Finding the Right Therapist: What to look for

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It is crucial that your therapist is trained appropriately to provide the treatment you specifically need. Not all therapists are trained to treat all problems. When sourcing your therapist, make sure they work for a reputable clinic. You may want to visit the clinic first and get a feel for the environment, check Google Reviews, or ask around in your social networks if you feel comfortable doing so. Most therapists will have their professional profile on the clinic website, where you will be able to first view their training and specialties. You should be concerned if they are working out of their home, as this is illegal in Dubai and you will not be protected if something goes wrong with the therapy. In addition, it may make it difficult for your insurance provider to cover the costs of treatment.

Useful (and completely acceptable) questions to ask include:

  • What level of training do you have?
  • Where did you receive your training?
  • How long have you been practicing?
  • What is your area of specialty?
  • Can I see your certificates?
  • Can I see your license to practice in Dubai?
  • What evidence is there for the type of therapy you are providing?
  • How do I know that this type of therapy is best for me?
  • How frequently will we meet?
  • Will my appointments always be at the same time?
  • What if I want to change therapist?
  • What happens if I get worse throughout the therapy?
  • How will we know if the work we are doing is helping?
  • Can you recommend any books to help understand my condition?

Professional Training: What to look for

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  • All psychologists are trained to a minimum of Masters level.
  • Most clinical psychologists will have a PhD., PsyD. or D.Clin.Psy., which means they have a Doctorate in Psychology. This indicates that in addition to their training, they also completed a research thesis in their chosen area of specialty.
  • UK-trained psychotherapists should have a Masters level degree at minimum, and many will have also completed a Post Graduate Diploma is a specialized area, such as cognitive behavioral psychotherapy or psychodynamic therapy.
  • All therapists should be able to provide you with educational certificates to demonstrate their training.
  • Just because someone has ‘Therapist’ in their job title, this does not indicate appropriate professional training. Always make sure they are qualified to practice.
  • If your therapist does not hold a license to practice, this should come as a warning signal. If they hold a license to practice in their home country, they may be going through the process of obtaining a license to practice in Dubai. If this is the case, just make sure they are qualified

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