Counselling, Psychology and Psychiatry – What is the Difference?

Is Atlas Counselling the Right Service For You?

Many people consider that Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Counsellors provide much the same kinds of services. From the outset, it is important that you understand some of the fundamental differences between the three professions before deciding whether Atlas Counselling is likely to provide you with the most benefit, with consideration to your individual situation/circumstances.  It is possible that you might benefit from more than one of these services.  If you remain unclear or uncertain as to whether or not Atlas Counselling may be a good fit for you, you are encouraged to phone or email to discuss your needs and expectations.


What is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has specialised in the study of the brain. As a result of medical training and authority, a psychiatrist is able to provide diagnosis, where it is appropriate or necessary to do so, and is also able to prescribe medications.


What is a Psychologist?

The Australian Psychological Society website explains that a psychologist uses “scientific methods to study the factors that influence the way that people think, feel and learn, and evidence-based strategies and interventions to help people overcome challenges and improve their performance”.  Essentially, psychology is the study of behaviour; what might cause it, and how it might be influenced to change.

A psychologist may provide a diagnosis as may be appropriate or necessary, but they are not authorised to prescribe medications.


What is a Counsellor?

A counsellor’s focus is on the person as a whole – not as a brain, nor as a set of behaviours.  A counsellor works less with a diagnosis as much as with the person who may have been given a diagnosis.  A counsellor is a professional who works with a client to help them develop strategies for managing the challenges they may face.  These challenges may be complex and warrant work over a period of months or indeed years, or they may be relatively short-lived and you may find work can be achieved within a few short sessions.  This is completely in the client’s hands to determine.

It is important to understand that in order to improve your mental health, you do not first have to have a mental illness. Sometimes people believe that seeking counselling support means that you first have to consider that you have “something wrong” with you.  Certainly, this is not the case; one does not have to follow the other.

Perhaps you just have a lot going on at the moment.  Perhaps you have not got a support network around you.  Perhaps the things that you have going on are bringing up thoughts and feelings that you do not feel comfortable discussing with the friends or family that you may have.  Sometimes it is easier having someone who is not “involved” in the struggles that you are experiencing, to talk to.  Perhaps you feel stuck and simply don’t know how to get ‘unstuck’.  There are probably as many “reasons” for seeking counselling support as there are people – that is to say, no two people experience a struggle, problem, experience or interaction in the same way.  Reaching out for impartial, private and professional support demonstrates a willingness to make change.  As such, it is an effort in achieving personal success, not an admission of inability, weakness or failure – you’re here, you’ve not given up trying to achieve your truth; to achieve your success, and Atlas Counselling may be able to help support you on your path.

Some areas where counselling may help are with respect to:

  • Relationships and communication,
  • Work,
  • Stress,
  • Anxiety,
  • Depression,
  • Periods of life transition,
  • Self-esteem,
  • Addiction,
  • Trauma and abuse,
  • Loss and grief, and
  • Parenting, to mention just a few.

It is important to remember that counsellors DO NOT make mental health diagnosis, and counsellors do not “treat” previously diagnosed mental illnesses.   However, a counsellor may still be able to work with you, and your specialist mental health practitioner, with your consent, and where it is deemed appropriate.

Counsellors DO NOT prescribe medications, nor do counsellors intervene with previously prescribed medication schedules or dosages. In the event that you require specialist mental health care and/or medication, Atlas Counselling can refer you to a professional that may be able to assist you, in the event that you do not have a current specialist.

It is important that you understand the difference between counselling services, psychology services, and psychiatric services. Atlas Counselling provides counselling services.  Therefore, our services may not be appropriate for your individual circumstances.  If this is the case, Atlas Counselling is able to refer you to other services that may be more appropriate to your needs, however, if you are in an emergency or crisis situation, or if your safety or the safety of someone else is at risk, you are advised to phone the most appropriate of the Emergency/Crisis numbers listed at the bottom of each page of this website.  These numbers can also be found on the ‘Emergency/Crisis Contacts’ page.

Similarly, if you are suffering with a physical condition that requires specific and specialised medical attention and/or treatment, counselling is not an appropriate solution. You are advised to contact your medical practitioner/specialist.  In the case of an emergency, dial 000 and request the appropriate emergency service(s).


Emergency Contact List

Kids Help Line:                                  1800 55 1800

Lifeline:                                              13 11 14

Domestic Violence Crisis Line:         1800 65 64 63

Australian Emergency Services:      000
(Police, Fire, Ambulance)

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