I have been seeing a therapist for over a year, and while I feel some behaviors have changed for the better, and she is the first therapist I actually enjoyed talking to, I don't feel like the therapist is hitting on things I want to address (which I have expressed to her). She hits on the interpersonal aspect, and I am really looking for a more intrapersonal take. She had to take a break due to family personal issues. During this downtime, it has left me wondering if continuing with her and really a therapist is actually what I need or if it is a psychologist.

I understand one of the major differences between the 2 is that a psychologist can write prescriptions and is a doctor while a therapist cannot. I have tried to google this too but not sure if my expectations are fantasy or realistic.

I expect that when I go to a psychologist, I can find ways to change behavior, or ways to handle negative traits better so I can still achieve desired life aspects. I understand it won't happen overnight but I also had this same expectation going to a therapist only to be disappointed it was mostly focused on relationships with others. While I certainly can use help in that department, I really want to address my own mental issues first.

Are my expectations of a Psychologist realistic, or will they virtually do the same thing as a therapist only they can write prescriptions?

  • 1
    A psychologist cannot write prescriptions with just a Phd. or PsyD. You may be thinking of a psychiatrist. Many psychologists today concentrate on psychological testing, but they can do therapy too if licensed.
    – Gordon
    May 24 '18 at 23:43
  • @Gordon So if I understand you right, you are saying that a therapist should be able to do what I am looking for and if I am not happy with the results to find a new therapist rather than a psychologist?
    – ggiaquin16
    May 24 '18 at 23:46
  • 1
    You may be thinking of a psychiatrist, not psychologist. Anyway, in USA, you are probably thinking of a psychiatrist (M.D. or D.O.). Regarding psychiatrists, some do not provide therapy now. The actual therapy is provided by another mental health professional whereas the psychiatrist manages the prescription medication. It depends on the arrangement.
    – Gordon
    May 24 '18 at 23:50
  • @Gordon well, I don't have any mental disorders, more so, looking for thought/behavior modification. IE, I have become extremely indifferent to various things in life. Total lack of motivation to do anything when, objectively speaking, I have all the motivation I need to do so. So, I am looking for someone that can help me modify this type of thought or behavior, rather than my current therapist who focuses on how i interact with friends/love interests/family.
    – ggiaquin16
    May 24 '18 at 23:56

From PsyD to PhD to MSW to MFT and others, psychotherapists have a wide variety of backgrounds, education, exposures, experiences, philosophies, and approaches to treatment. Much more so than most other treatments, there is a lot of diversity in how they treat patients. I have asked a similar question to our psychology faculty, as patients sometimes complain that they didn't get what they were seeking from one therapist, then give up. Especially cognitive behavioral therapy - not all therapists offer it, but it is highly effective for certain conditions. Their answer was to have them try another provider until they find someone who does, or ask one of them to refer you to someone who specializes in something specific. I think the best bet to land on someone most diverse in techniques would be a PsyD, because their education process is more extensive than MFT/MSW, and is more likely to be clinical-focused than PhD which is sometimes research focused. But there are excellent therapists of all education backgrounds, so avoid assuming the degree defines skill. Really, it comes down to trial and error to find what you need.

None of the above write prescriptions. Psychiatrists are MD or DO who go through medical school and specialize in medical treatment of psychological conditions; however, although some are, not many are trained in psychotherapy.

  • Since this is not only about absolute definitions but also about legal consequences, it might be nice to add in which jurisdictions these definitions apply. (How and when or if a psychologist BA/MA/Dipl/PhD/Dr can be also a therapist, even someone handing out prescriptions, might be quite different around the world…) / Your bet is a generalised heuristic. Some "basic stuff" (like anxiety disorders) do not require such a high degree of education, just a specialist. It is more important to use the right tool for the job. IMO: trying anxiety to a psychoanalyst is likely not the optimum choice. May 25 '18 at 12:44

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