If you are dealing with a mental health issue, it can be difficult to know whether you should see a psychiatrist or a therapist first. While both psychiatrists and therapists provide mental health services, they offer different approaches and treatments.

The difference between a psychiatrist and a therapist

Psychiatrists and therapists undergo different education and training. Whether you are looking for a psychiatrist in Dallas or a therapist in Austin, here are some differences between the two.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications, such as antidepressants or antipsychotics, to help manage mental health issues. They often provide counseling to discuss lifestyle changes, motivation for treatment, and how patients are adapting to medication. This is typically done in shorter sessions. 

A therapist is a mental health professional who uses therapy to help patients understand what is causing certain moods, feelings, and behaviors. They can also identify underlying issues that may be contributing to the mental illness. Therapists use different types of therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, to help the patient cope with their condition. Therapists typically do not prescribe medications, though they may refer patients to psychiatrists. Therapists hold a range of certifications and education and can include social workers, psychologists, or counselors. 

Consider the issue

Are you experiencing insomnia? Everyday stress? Something more specific, such as panic attacks or signs of post-traumatic stress disorder? Depending on the issue and severity, you may want to first see a psychiatrist for medication and physiological diagnoses. 

If your mental health concerns are related to everyday life problems, such as situational anxiety or depression, seeing a therapist first could be more beneficial. If you concern involves a relationship, such as conflict with a spouse or family member, a therapist might be the right choice. 

Consider which treatment might help more

If your urge is to talk about certain thoughts, feelings, and emotions you are experiencing, you might want to approach a therapist first. If you suspect you need medication to manage mental health issues, then seeing a psychiatrist first might be best. 

Taking the next step

Whether you’re considering speaking to a therapist or psychiatrist, take the time to research your options and find the right professional for you. For those looking for qualified assistance, you can explore the licensed therapists at GoodTherapy to find a suitable match based on your specific needs. The right one will understand your individual needs and provide the most effective treatment plan. Talk with your primary care physician or another trusted medical professional about finding the right mental health practitioner for you. They may be able to recommend psychiatrists or therapists in your area who can help.

Some patients find success seeing both a therapist and a psychiatrist. You may find that a combination of medication and therapy is what works best for you. And remember, mental health treatment is an important and necessary step in taking care of your overall health and wellbeing.  Don’t wait – take the necessary steps to start your mental health journey today.