What is a....?
Social workers are highly trained and experienced professionals. Only those who have earned social work degrees at the bachelor's, master's or doctoral levels -- and completed a minimum number of hours in supervised fieldwork --are professional social workers.
Social workers help people overcome some of life's most difficult challenges: poverty, discrimination, abuse, addiction, physical illness, divorce, loss, unemployment, educational problems, disability, and mental illness. They help prevent crisis and counsel individuals, families, and communities to cope more effectively with the stress of everyday life.
Practicing psychologists have the professional training and clinical skills to help people learn to cope more effectively with life issues and mental health problems. After years of graduate school and supervised training, they become licensed by their states to provide a number of services, including evaluations and psychotherapy. Psychologists help by using a variety of techniques based on the best available research and consider someone's unique values, characteristics, goals, and circumstances. They help with a wide variety of people and can treat many kinds of problems. Some people may talk to a psychologist because they have felt depressed, angry, or anxious for a long time. Or, they want help for a chronic condition that is interfering with their lives or physical health. Others may have short-term problems they want help navigating, such as feeling overwhelmed by a new job or grieving the death of a family member. Psychologists can help people learn to cope with stressful situations, overcome addictions, manage their chronic illnesses and break past barriers that keep them from reaching their goals.
Practicing psychologists are also trained to administer and interpret a number of tests and assessments that can help diagnose a condition or tell more about the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. These tests may evaluate intellectual skills, cognitive strengths and weaknesses, vocational aptitude and preference, personality characteristics and neuropsychological functioning. They can help with a range of health problems and use an assortment of evidence-based treatments to help people improve their lives. Most commonly, they use therapy (often referred to as psychotherapy or talk therapy). There are many different styles of therapy, but the psychologist will choose the type that best addresses the person's problem and best fits the patient's characteristics and preferences.
Some common types of therapy are cognitive, behavioral, cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, humanistic, psychodynamic, or a combination of a few therapy styles. Therapy can be for an individual, couples, family or other group. Some psychologists are trained to use hypnosis, which research has found to be effective for a wide range of conditions including pain, anxiety, and mood disorders. For some conditions, therapy and medications are a treatment combination that works best. For people who benefit from medication, psychologists work with primary care physicians, pediatricians, and psychiatrists on their overall treatment.
Psychiatry is the branch of medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Psychiatrists are qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems.
People see psychiatric help for many reasons. The problems can be sudden, such as a panic attack, frightening hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, or hearing "voices." Or they may be more long-term such as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or anxiousness that never seem to life or problems functioning, causing everyday life to fee distorted or out of control.
Because they are physicians, psychiatrists can order or perform a full range of medical laboratory and psychological tests which, combined with discussions with patients, help provide a picture of a patient's physical and mental state. Their education and clinical training equip them to understand the complex relationship between emotional and other medical illnesses and the relationship with genetics and family history, to evaluate medical and psychological data, to make a diagnosis, and to work with patients to develop treatment plans. Specific diagnoses are based on criteria established in "APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5)," which contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders.
Psychiatrists use a variety of treatments - including various forms of psychotherapy, medications, psychosocial interventions, and other treatments (such as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT), depending on the needs of each patient. Psychotherapy, sometimes called talk therapy, is a treatment that involves a talking relationship between a therapist and patient. It can be used to treat a broad variety of mental disorders and emotional difficulties. The goal of psychotherapy is to eliminate or control disabling or troubling symptoms so the patient can function better. Depending on the extent of the problem, treatment may take just a few sessions over a week or two or may take many sessions over a period of years. Psychotherapy can be done individually, as a couple, with a family, or in a group.
Read more at:
American Psychiatric Association (2016). What is Psychiatry. www.psychiatric.org.