CounselingPeople often use the terms psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, and therapist interchangeably, and while they are similar, they do not mean the same thing. When trying to maneuver the mental health world to better yourself, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of the different professional occupations, schools of thought, and ways to find them so you can figure out the best possible solution for your unique situation.


Psychologists are medical professionals who typically have finished their doctorate. They are licensed to handle long-term conditions and short-term problems. They are not able to write prescriptions in most states, but they will work with your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist if prescriptions are a necessary avenue to take. They are qualified to treat and manage medical and mental issues.


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who are licensed to diagnose illness and are specialized in helping patients maintain or prevent mental illnesses. They are able to prescribe medication they believe would be beneficial and also follow up with checking on side effects of medication so they can alter prescriptions or recommend lower or higher dosages. 

Social Worker

Social workers are another important resource in communities that may have only a small amount of therapy options. They sometimes differ in the amount of education they have earned because a volunteer social worker would most likely have minimal education, but normally they will have at least a master’s degree in social work. These professionals are oftentimes the first responders for people first looking into getting help. Licensed Social Workers help families and individuals who are working through difficult times such as job loss, domestic abuse, and stressors. Hotlines are often answered by social workers and they can help you find a psychologist or psychiatrist nearby to continue helping manage your problem.


Therapist is more used as a broad search term for any kind of mental health professional, and counselor is oftentimes meant to be the same as therapist. Therapists differ from psychologists in that they typically don’t have quite an advanced degree, and therapists often focus on specific facets of mental health, such as marriage counseling, social work, addiction, and family counseling. 

Steps to Finding Help

CounselingwordmapAsk someone for a referral – Your friends and family may have a valuable referral for someone you might have otherwise not considered. Talk to the people you’re comfortable with to gain some insight into the different options in your area.

Look online – We are living in a digital age and most information can be found online. If you have insurance, give them a call to see what therapy options there are in your area. If you don’t have insurance, check with local clinics to see low-cost options for therapy.

Know your preferences – gender, age – It might seem like you’re being sexist, but there’s no shame in knowing if you have a preference or requirement for which gender the therapist should be to make you more comfortable. during your therapy.

Talk to them on the phone beforehand – Whenever you make a decision on a small list of professionals, try calling them on the phone and see if you can speak to them directly. When you’re calling in to a small practice, it’s likely you’ll reach that specific person, but don’t be surprised if you cannot talk to them if it’s a larger practice. If and when you reach the person, talk to them about your goals to get a feel for how they will respond during your therapy sessions.

Listen to yourself – if you don’t feel comfortable with that person, there’s nothing wrong with finding someone else. You must be able to listen to yourself and gauge whether or not it would be worthwhile for you to continue with this person. 

For more information about how to find the best therapy options for you, contact the New Horizons Counseling Center.