Every day, hundreds of people search the internet for a “psychologist near me” or a “psychiatrist near me,” but which type of doctor do you really need? There are some important differences between these two professionals that are important to understand.
The Role Of A Psychiatrist
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor with an emphasis on treating mental health disorders. Psychiatrists treat mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder as well as behavior disorders or neurodevelopmental such as ADHD. Other issues a psychiatrist can treat include anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, schizophrenia and even addiction.
Because a psychiatrist is a medical doctor, they are able to prescribe medications, so much of their focus is on diagnosis and medication management, although they certainly might recommend a therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or alternative treatments for some conditions such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). In many cases, you might end up with a treatment plan that includes medication and several types of therapy.
While that “psychiatrist near me” can provide patients with diagnosis and medication, as well as recommending therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, the psychiatrist is not typically the person that will be sitting across from you every week or a few times each month for talk therapy or CBT sessions. Psychiatrists tend to focus on finding the proper treatment, rather than focusing on providing one-on-one therapy.
The Role Of A Psychologist
Though a psychologist is not a medical doctor, these professionals do have extensive training to help those with mental health disorders. They cannot prescribe medication, but they often can help with the diagnosis of issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and much more. Your psychologist might refer you to a psychiatrist if they believe that medication would be helpful, but they also will be able to provide many types of psychotherapy.
Which Doctor Do You Need?
I often am asked which professional is best – a psychiatrist or a psychologist? However, there’s rarely an “either/or” answer. In many cases, it is recommended that you seek out the services of both professionals. You might begin the journey with a psychiatrist and then branch out to use a psychologist to help you with cognitive behavior therapy, talk therapy or another type of therapy.
Even if you don’t end up using any type of medication, it can be smart to talk with a psychiatrist at first because of their medical perspective. A psychiatrist will be interested in gaining a complete picture of health, and not just mental health. Medical conditions can make an impact on our mental health, so it is important to look at the whole patient and every condition that might be affecting them.
Once we determine the best course of action, a psychologist or therapist can provide you with psychotherapy and your psychiatrist can help you with the medication management. In some cases, we might need to adjust the dosage or try another type of medication or medications before we find the best combination to suit your unique needs. This can take time, but the result should be a happier life where the symptoms of your mental health disorders are as well-managed as possible.
Types of Psychotherapy
Many types of therapy may be beneficial, and these often are utilized in conjunction with medication or in lieu of medication, depending on the patient’s needs. Here’s a quick look at a few psychotherapy options that can be helpful tools.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This is a type of talk therapy that helps you redirect negative thinking to help you generate more positive results when faced with challenges. This is considered short-term therapy because it’s meant to provide patients with tools that they can use to help them manage difficult situations.
For instance, for someone with a panic disorder or perhaps PTSD, this type of therapy helps identify triggers and also provides you with some self-calming techniques to help manage anxiety and panic. CBT also can provide you with tools to help overcome loss or even to cope with a chronic medical illness.
CBT often is used for patients with depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance use disorders, phobias, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Again, sometimes medication also is used in conjunction with CBT. You would use a psychiatrist for the medication management, and a therapist or psychologist for the CBT.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – DBT is actually a type of CBT, and it is very effective for patients with borderline personality disorder as well as those with people who self-harm, such as cutting, and those with chronic suicidal thoughts. It also can be used for people with substance abuse issues and even PTSD.
With DBT, the goal is to help those with very intense and uncontrollable emotions. Using DBT techniques, patients help regulate their thinking and also learn better ways to communicate with family, friends and others, as this is often a difficult issue, especially for those with borderline personality disorder.
Psychodynamic Therapy – Back in the 60s and 70s, we often just called this analysis or psychoanalytic therapy. The goal here is to help change behavior by diving into a patient’s history to learn how past experiences (including traumas) may be affecting current behavior or thoughts.
This can be helpful for some patients with depression and anxiety or those with a trauma in their past, but it is still wise to consider using tools that one gains through cognitive behavioral therapy as these help us get through challenging situations as they occur. Still, sometimes it can be a good idea to identify how our childhood events or traumatic events impact our current behavior and thoughts.
Humanistic Therapy – This is a talk-based type of therapy and the goal with the humanistic approach is on the individual in the present. Rather than focusing on what caused a certain type of behavior, we focus more on how we can help a patient improve their sense of self. This can be used as a treatment for anxiety, depression, addiction and personality disorders, but, again, as with psychodynamic therapy, it can be smart to consider some type of CBT to provide you with concrete tools that can help you deal with fears, anxiety and interpersonal relationships in the moment.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – This is a body-oriented type of therapy that has proved very effective for the treatment of PTSD or any type of past trauma. EMDR also has been found to help with depression, anxiety and phobias. With EMDR, the theory is that some specific eye movements can reduce negative emotions associated with trauma, anxiety or depression.
EMDR has eight phases as part of the treatment plan. The first phases include documenting a thorough history of the patient, providing the patient with self-control and self-soothing techniques and identifying the specific memories that trigger those negative emotions. This could be any past trauma including a traumatic accident, sexual assault, a death in the family, domestic violence, etc.
During the next phases, patients will help desensitize the patient to these traumatic events using specific types of eye movements. The therapist also will help you replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. While this won’t erase the memory of the traumatic event, it helps you redirect your emotions into a more positive way of thinking so that those traumatic events no longer trigger exponential emotional responses, such as panic attacks or anxiety.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) – TMS can be an excellent option for treatment-resistant depression. If you’ve tried various medications and therapies with little success, TMS might be something to consider. It is FDA-approved, painless and noninvasive. It also can be beneficial for some patients with anxiety and PTSD.
For this treatment, we place an electromagnetic coil near your forehead, and this delivers a magnetic pulse to nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain that controls mood. By stimulating those nerves, this can help improve mood and ease some of the symptoms associated with depression.
Medication & Mental Health
Of course, in some cases, medication is an excellent treatment option. Typically, I would recommend combining medication with another type of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. While medication can help reduce symptoms and greatly improve life for many patients, learning how to respond to stressful situations and how to deal with unpleasant memories and emotions are valuable tools for all of us.
Finding A Psychologist or Psychiatrist “Near Me”
In many cases, you don’t really need to find a psychologist or psychiatrist “near me,” because we can provide many of these treatments using telepsychiatry. Throughout the pandemic, telepsychiatry has been our tool of choice, allowing both doctor and patient to remain socially distant while still receiving treatment.
Visiting a virtual psychiatrist or online psychiatrist not only provides you with the same level of service as an in-person appointment, it also can be less stressful for patients. Additionally, it makes it far less necessary to find a “psychiatrist near me,” and allows you to broaden your scope and find the best possible doctor-patient match.
If you do want that psychiatrist near me, I have offices in Thousand Oaks so if you’ve been looking for a psychiatrist in Thousand Oaks, a psychiatrist in Simi Valley or a psychiatrist in Westlake Village or perhaps Woodland Hills, but I also can provide telepsychiatry for patients throughout Southern California. I treat a wide range of mental health disorders including ADHD, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, as well as helping those with substance use disorders.
Dr Jesalva is a psychiatrist. He is in private practice in Thousand Oaks, CA since 1989. He successfully treats very challenging patients with varying co-occurring disorders with medications.