Psychiatrist vs Therapist: Which one do I need?

Posted on: July 30, 2017, by :
Amy Morrison Psychiatrist or Therapist,

Amy Morrison Psychiatrist or Therapist

psychiatrist vs therapist
by Amy Morrison Psychiatric PA and Medical Director of Morrison Clinic

A psychiatrist or psychiatric PA can prescribe medication to help fix the chemical imbalance that leads to depression and anxiety.  In the most basic terms, depression and anxiety stem from low levels of serotonin and other chemicals in your brain. Antidepressants prescribed by a psychiatrist or psychiatric PA work by increasing serotonin in the brain.  After several weeks you should notice a significant improvement in your depression and/or anxiety.   However, medication is not the only effective treatment nor should it be. It is important to recognize that stress is part of the cause of depression and anxiety.

A Psychiatrist’s Role in Your Treatment

A psychiatrist or psychiatric PA should spend time during your appointment counseling you on ways to better manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety.  However the main role of a psychiatrist or psychiatric PA is medication management of depression and anxiety disorders.  While this is an important component in your treatment, it should not be the only focus of your treatment.

Stress is Bad For Your Health

Learning how to cope with stress is a very important part of your recovery.  Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol which is hazardous to your health.   When cortisol is released excessively from stress it can lower chemicals like serotonin in your brain.   Low levels of serotonin have been known to induce depression and anxiety disorders. High levels of cortisol can have a negative effect on other parts of your body as well.  It can increase your blood pressure and make the vessels in your heart less flexible which can cause heart disease.  Stress can trigger pain disorders from general aches and pains to tension headaches from stiffness in your neck and shoulders.   Stress has been known to play a negative role in most illnesses that plague society today and a therapist can teach you coping skills which minimize the impact of stress.

Do Psychiatrists Counsel Patients?

Due to managed health care psychiatrists very rarely serve the role of therapist.   They are able to see more patients in a day for medication management and often times see as many as 20-30 patients a day.  Since there are many qualified and capable therapists, psychiatrists do not often do hour long sessions with clients.   Instead they refer their clients to a therapist.  However due to their very busy schedules, many psychiatrists do not  have the time to educate patients on how therapy works.   Instead they refer the patient to a therapist in hopes that the patient will trust their judgement and follow their treatment recommendations.   However, many patients do not want to invest the time and money to see a therapist each week until they understand how therapy is helpful.

What Kind of Psychiatrist is Best for You?

I have been treating depression and anxiety disorders since 2004.   My many years of experience  has led me to determine that my clients who work with a therapist stay healthy on less medication .    While my background is psychiatry and I love practicing the art of medicine,  my goal is to minimize the use of medication.  My treatment plan for my clients includes making lifestyle changes and  improving their emotional health.   Furthermore, I find more fulfillment in my work if I see less clients in a day.  I want to spend more time with each client and provide them with a more holistic treatment plan.  I recommend you research your medical provider to determine their care philosophy.

What Kind of Therapist is Best for You?

I recommend you find a psychiatrist or psychiatric PA who has close ties to local therapists.  Ideally your medical provider should offer good referrals both in their office and in the community.  Working with a therapist who shares office space with your medical provider offers many advantages.  However, a therapist in the community may better fit your needs.  The important thing is to be knowledgeable about your treatment options.  A good place to start is reading my article titled: Why is Therapy so Important?