While often misidentified as the same, psychiatry and counseling are actually quite different. To begin, let me try and differentiate psychiatry from counseling.
Counseling is traditionally focused on the practice of “talk therapy,” or “psychotherapy.” That is, the process of working through problem/life issues by talking them through with a professional counselor. Such a professional will help clients to process their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, and will help clients to build strategies for improving their moods, lives and relationships.
Psychiatry (with some exceptions) is generally focused on helping individuals to overcome specific problem issues with medication.
Medication in Psychiatry Treatment
Psychiatric medications get their fair share of criticism. Critics, from licensed mental health professionals to Tom Cruise, have voiced their distrust and displeasure with psychiatric medications. Some claim that psychiatric meds are over prescribed, such as in the case of medicating to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) in children. Others claim that psychiatric medications are unhealthy, or even addictive. Still, others suggest that psychiatric medications are no more effective than a placebo!
Criticisms are so widespread and diverse that, in fact, it is logically impossible for them all to be true (a medication can’t be both highly-addictive and a placebo).
A Balanced Approach to Psychiatry
Many persons battling with life challenges, such as anxiety and depression, do not require medication. Even many psychiatrists will attest that it’s best practice for a person to try and work through such issues with counseling, and without psychiatric meds (and, to blur things a little, some psychiatrists will provide counseling or “talk therapy” in addition to psychiatric services).
However, medications are helpful in some situations. For instance, medications may be helpful in the case of a chronic problem, one in which counseling has been tried but hasn’t provided adequate relief: Chronic depression or unmanageable symptoms of ADHD, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), or serious mental illnesses are just a few issues that can greatly benefit from psychiatry.
Second, medications can be helpful during the acute onset of severe symptoms; very commonly depression or anxiety. For instance, medication can be helpful after the loss of a loved one, or immediately following a personal tragedy or trauma, or during instances when a client/patient is so distraught that he or she cannot participate in counseling, and/or function in his or her daily life. At times like these, psychiatric medications (such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds) can be of great help and relief to a client.
We hope this article was helpful to you, and helped you to learn a little more about psychiatry and counseling, and what differentiates the two. Buck Black LCSW wrote a good article titled “Medication Vs. Counseling,” which is available in this blog. Mr. Black also provides Online Counseling to clients across the USA. This article was written by staff writers at Thrive Boston Counseling, 872 Massachusetts Ave, Ste 2-2, Cambridge, MA 02139, a counseling practice that also offers psychiatry services. Learn more at: http://www.thriveboston.com/boston-psychiatry.html