Thinking about taking care of your mental health? There are plenty of support options and different types of mental health professionals, but what’s the difference between them?
Counsellor is a term for someone who offers talking therapy and might be a psychologist, nurse, social worker or occupational therapist. You don’t need a referral from a GP to see a counsellor, and they have training in different areas, for people with different needs. To find a counsellor or for more info you could start by searching through organisations like The Australian Counselling Association or Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia.
Psychologists can provide a range of therapies (eg. talking therapy, art therapy) to deal with problems like depression, anxiety, stress and grief. Psychologists have a tertiary qualification in their field and must be registered to work with the Psychology Board of Australia.
While psychologists and psychiatrists are pretty similar, the major difference is that psychiatrists specialise in the biological causes of mental illness, while psychologists focus more on the cognitive and behavioural aspects. Also, psychiatrists are medical doctors with specialist qualifications in psychiatry and can prescribe medications and admit people to hospital (psychologists can’t do this).
Both public and private hospitals provide mental health services. People are usually referred to a hospital for these types of services through an emergency department, community mental health team or a GP.
In addition to in-person services, there are also a number of online resources available, including:
Beyond Blue for information and advice, as well as an online live chat. You can also call and speak to someone 24 hours a day on 1300 22 4636.
PANDA provides a free confidential helpline service offering support for new and expecting mums and dads who are struggling with becoming a parent. You can call 1300 726 306 to speak with a trained counsellor 9am-7.30pm (AEST), Monday to Friday.
Lifeline for crisis support and suicide prevention services with an online live chat. You can also call them 24 hours a day on 13 11 14.