Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, and a Counselor?

Each of these clinicians are specialists in working with mental health needs. There is frequently collaboration between them as well, and they all work with patients of any age group, including children. Where they differ is in the level of training and education required for their license, and whether they can prescribe medication when needed.

A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor or physician with mental health training and prescription expertise with psychotropic medications. This means psychiatrists can prescribe suitable medications that may be required to treat mental health conditions. To be qualified, they must complete medical school, followed by psychiatry residency and/or fellowships, and receive medical board certification. In the United States, they require a Medical Degree (MD) for licensed practice.

A Psychologist is a mental health specialist with extensive training in therapy, which includes diagnosing and assessing a patient’s condition. Their qualifications require completion of graduate school, clinical internship, fellowships, and certification by the psychology board. In the United States, a Doctoral Degree (PhD or PsyD) in psychology is generally required for licensed practice.

A Counselor (also called a “Psychotherapist”) is also a mental health specialist, with similar training areas as a Psychologist, but requiring less time investment in schooling. Their qualifications include completion of graduate school followed by a clinical practicum. In the United States, a Masters Degree in a related field of mental health is generally required for licensed practice.

Each of these clinicians is dedicated to improving mental health in their patients. Depending on their training or the specializing of their school programs, they may focus on specific areas of treatment. They may excel in dealing with specific disorders, therapy approaches, research focus, and/or practice settings. These professionals believe in collaboration when needed, and if a psychologist or counselor feels pharmaceutical or advanced clinical intervention is required, they can, and do, refer their patients to psychiatrists.

Which specialist should I see: Psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor?

The most important factor in working with any clinician is your comfort and fit with them as a person, because trust and openness are needed ingredients for successful treatment.

When properly licensed and qualified, all three of these clinicians’ expertise is suited to treating a wide range of mental health needs and afflictions. If, however, medication is required for successful treatment, patients will need to consult a psychiatrist, as they are the only mental health practitioner licensed for dispensing pharmaceuticals.

For many patients, counseling and therapeutic treatment is all they need for a good mental health program. If so, then a counselor or psychologist whose personality, background, and lifestyle is a good “fit” is key in establishing the trust and camaraderie needed for successful therapy. We encourage our patients are to research our clinicians’ background, training, and interests to help find the right “fit” for them.

Have a look at our clinical team here to see who might suit your preferences and needs.

How often will I need to see the psychiatrist/psychologist/counselor?

There is no easy answer to this question. Every person’s needs differs, depending on the issue, the severity, and the patient’s desires regarding ongoing support.

Some patients, for example, might seek clinical help to simply get tools for managing their situation for a long-term self-guided approach. Other patients may appreciate having an unbiased, supportive professional to confide in for an ongoing, long-term basis, especially if their lifestyle stresses are expected to continue for an extended period. Ideally, their clinician will work with the patient to create a treatment path unique to the individual.

That’s why “how often, and for how long, should we meet?” is a great question to ask your clinician during your initial consultation.

While a good clinician would never guarantee a “set number of sessions” to reach your targets, they can usually give you a general estimate for achieving short- and/or long-term treatment goals, per your desires. More importantly, they can tell you why that plan should be a good one in working toward your mental health goal.

Generally, though, therapy sessions tend to be scheduled once a week, but intensive intervention may benefit from more frequent sessions.

When medication is involved, things change somewhat, because every body processes medication differently, and the management of dosages means appointment regularity can vary. Once your dosage response is deemed “stable” by you and your psychiatrist, visits may be recommended monthly, intermittently, or as needed.

How do I know if I need, or my child needs, to see a neurologist or a psychiatrist?

In general, neurologists treat abnormalities of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves, whereas psychiatrists treat disorders of the mind related to the brain. The distinction between “mind” and “brain” is that the

brain is the physical, visible organ, whereas the mind is the invisible realm of thoughts, feelings, reactions, and so on.

It’s important to note that both clinicians often have extensive “cross-over” medical training, as the “brain” and “mind” clearly overlap, possibly presenting with similar physical and behavioral symptoms.

A neurologist is where to begin with more obvious physical or neurological symptoms, which may include conditions like epilepsy or movement disorders.

For other conditions that are more behaviorally or mentally rooted, like attention deficits, depression, or anxiety, it may be advisable start treatment with a psychiatrist.

Oftentimes, though, and especially for more severe concerns, both specialists can collaborate to provide ideal, broader treatment, since they tend to apply different strategies and management. But don’t worry about picking the “right” doctor at the outset. Our clinicians will always make appropriate referrals if they feel you or your child would benefit from additional evaluation or consultation.

If you’re in doubt, please ask your clinician directly.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Simply put, “Occupational Therapy” is therapy designed to bring people independence in everyday life. This therapy can be helpful to people of all age groups, whether it’s children who have motor skills or processing challenges, or adults who’ve faced changes in their day-to-day ability to function through illness or accidents.

Whoever the patient is, a therapist’s primary goal is to help them accomplish tasks and activities with confidence and ease.

This can include anything affected by gross motor, fine motor, visual motor, and sensory motor skills. It can also aid in the ability to process requests and what is needed to accomplish tasks.

For children, adults, or elderly patients facing challenges with routine daily activities, like eating, dressing, bathing, and beyond, occupational therapy can be immensely helpful in teaching coping skills to help them in their day-to-day in a way that accommodates their limitations. For more information, please see our Occupational Services page or arrange for a consultation with our clinician.

My child is a picky eater, who do I need to see?

Feeding a picky child is among a parent’s most frustrating challenges, but not all picky eaters are a standard product of childhood.

Some picky eaters can be fussy due to a wide range of causes, which can include sensory issues, feeding and/or swallowing difficulties, or even behavioral or developmental concerns. Whether it’s just one of these issues or potentially overlapping issues, professional intervention can help.

The first step for parents is to discuss the matter with their child’s primary pediatrician, to rule out potential underlying medical factors. If this doesn’t provide a resolution, then the next step might include visiting with speech-language and/or occupational therapists who have specialized training in

this area. These professionals can offer parents therapeutic support while creating a treatment plan for the child.

If your child presents with a wider range of behavioral or developmental concerns beyond only picky eating, then can be important to consult with a psychologist or counselor, for a comprehensive understanding of your child’s developmental profile.

Please see our speech-language therapy page here, our occupational therapy page here, and our psychology page here.

Are the costs of therapy/services covered under my extended health insurance?

Sometimes. Each insurance company plan is different, so it’s imperative you check your specific coverage. Recently, insurance companies have begun expanding coverage for mental health, as employers realize mental health affects the workforce to a greater degree than previously thought. Today, more patients are finding they can get at least a portion of their services reimbursed.

If your coverage brochure or booklet isn’t clear, contact your insurance company directly to see what is covered. If needed, we can try to help you figure out what your coverage allows and then budget accordingly.