Mental health is as important as our overall physical health. Hong Kong’s fast-paced lifestyle can be one of the main contributors to stress1. This lifestyle also often leaves little space to care for our mental health.
Some people assume therapy isn’t worth the time, often, they are unaware of the different types of therapy and therapists that are available. Those who want help tend to ask, "What is the difference between a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a therapist and a counsellor?"
When should I seek help?
These are some of the signs that you might need to seek help:
- You are worrying more than you normally would
- You are getting distracted more frequently than usual
- You are struggling to enjoy life or your general day-to-day activities
- You are letting difficult thoughts and feelings impact your daily life
- You are feeling more emotional than normal
Find the right mental health professional for your needs
There are lots of effective treatments for mental health issues. However, the first step is making sure you find the right person for your difficulties. Knowing the difference between a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist and counsellor will give you an insight into what to expect from these professionals. They focus on different aspects of mental health and provide a solution with a specialised approach.
Your mental health clinic will recommend a specialist if you are unsure which one would be right for you. This may change after your initial visit as you delve deeper into the issue that is bothering you.
What does a Psychiatrist do?
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who help with mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, personality disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They can prescribe medication and carry out general health checks. Their methods are usually a combination of psychotherapy and medical treatments: a medical doctor and psychologist all in one.
What does a Psychologist do?
Psychologists are trained to treat conditions such as depression, emotional issues, behavioural difficulties and learning difficulties2. Unlike psychiatrists, psychologists do not prescribe any medication. However, they use specific therapeutic techniques to help clients with their presenting problems.
What does a Therapist do?
Therapists are mental health professionals qualified to help in various areas. There are several types of psychotherapy, but here we take a look at the main ones:
- Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing (EMDR)3 is a type of psychotherapy focusing on helping people heal from the symptoms and effects of traumatic life experiences.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)4 helps to identify negative and unhealthy behaviours and beliefs, and replace them with healthy and positive ones.
- Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT)4 helps to make individuals become aware of and accept their thoughts and feelings. They can then commit to making changes, increasing their ability to cope with and adjust to situations.
- Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT)5 promotes emotional healing by encouraging compassion towards others and oneself.
What does a Counsellor do?
Counsellors are trained professionals who provide solutions strictly to personal problems6. Although they fall under the same category as psychotherapists, counsellors’ primary focus is on interpersonal and personal issues. Unlike therapists who focus on more profound changes to one’s personality, counsellors focus on a specific area of one’s life and solving problems. Some of the problems counsellors help with include addiction, marital problems, loss and grief.
Where to start:
Reaching out can be difficult, but the feeling of helplessness will only increase as you continue coping with an issue without the right help. There are many people that are struggling with mental wellness and are looking for support.
When seeking help, you can start by reaching out to someone you trust. This can be your GP, school councillor, colleague or family. Mental health information hotlines in Hong Kong include:
- Social Welfare and Department Hotline: 2343-2255
- Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service: 2535-4135
- Joyful Mental Health Foundation Emotional Support Hotline: 2301-2303
Help at OT&P MindWorX
MindWorX is the dedicated mental wellness clinic at OT&P. At MindWorX, we have a team of qualified and experienced psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical hypnotherapists, educational psychologists, mental health counsellors and behavioural therapists, offering sessions in both English and Cantonese. Our team provides a wide range of therapy services with a personal approach as there is no room for a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health.
- (www.gov.hk), G. (2019, December 18). GovHK: Mental Health. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.gov.hk/en/residents/health/mental/mentalhealth.htm
- Psychiatrists and psychologists: What's the difference? (n.d.). Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.yourhealthinmind.org/psychiatry-explained/psychiatrists-and-psychologists
- What is EMDR?: EMDR Institute – EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING THERAPY. (n.d.). Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/
- Psychotherapy. (2016, March 17). Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/psychotherapy/about/pac-20384616
- Team, G. (2018, August 03). Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT). Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/compassion-focused-therapy
- What Is Counselling. (n.d.). Retrieved 2020, from https://www.australiacounselling.com.au/what-is-counselling/