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Let me start this post with two points.
If there was one thing that cuts across all forms of helping activities in the realm of mental health, it should relate to learning. Counseling is no exception for me, as it involves learning, the same way we learn from lectures, talks, workshops and even church sermons. In that case, why then is there a need for personal therapy?
People frequently mistake counseling for seeking advice. It is seen as sort of a lecture or public forum, only that it is done in private, and advice would come as personal to the client as no other medium can provide. This means they don’t have to worry about guessing if the advice they heard from a lecture or a talk, is personal or applicable to them or not. This in part answers our question about the need for personal therapy from point number one. However, the reasons are much more complicated than this.
I have always contended that counseling is a process of discovery. It is a journey through life with someone who’s dedicated to helping clients find a way to themselves, or their real selves. This is what makes it special and different from all the other approaches to learning.
Secondly, and more importantly, it is experiential. How many times have we heard it said that the longest we keep information from a long-drawn-out lecture or sermon, can only be retained in our memories for the next 20 minutes.
Counseling is an avenue in which the lessons are long-remembered after the experience. It is analogous to experiences in life that we find unforgettable. That awesome trip you had in a place that you just ticked off from your bucket list…That brush with a life-and-death situation that you will always remember to tell in intimate gatherings…These are but a few examples of how experiential learning can be remembered so much more vividly, that a lecture or a talk can find hard to duplicate.
In my experience, I have at times been tempted to offer advice to people who see me. Clients would often come after numerous people have given them advice that made sense, but somehow they could not believe will work for them. This only goes to show that decisions that are offered from the outside, will be difficult to apply, until those same decisions come from the very person who asks for it. It is at times only in experiencing the learning process through counseling, that decisions can be made with courage, and new wisdom can be proudly owned, by the one who seeks it, and eventually lives it.
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by Nathan Chua
One frequent inquiry I get is about which psychologist or counselor one should look for, when faced with emotional or psychological problems. I think there is enough confusion around, that compels a discussion about the different specializations available in such a broad field like psychology.
For this post, I will focus on three distinct, but nonetheless related fields in psychology, which are frequently the subject of inquiry. These are clinical psychology, psychiatry and counseling psychology. There are many more areas of learning in psychology that I just don’t have the space to discuss in one short blog. Please note that I am talking from the perspective of someone who works and lives in the Philippines. Some of my descriptions about the way these three are practiced, may be unique to the country.
This is a field where social workers and counselors with master’s degrees would specialize in the Philippines. Some counselors are not just involved in talk therapy or counseling, but they can also give psychological tests as well. They can work in various organizations. A typical example would be a school’s guidance counselor. Others would be involved in hospitals, clinics, rehab centers, religious charities or any organization that is involved in social work. They are not trained to prescribe medication.
Most practitioners in this field are involved in counseling and psychometrics. They are able to do most, if not all, of what counselors and social workers can offer. Of course, this still depends on what the clinical psychologist chooses to specialize in. In the Philippines, clinical psychologists are normally the people who couples approach when they are in the process of annulment.
This field would have the widest scope. Psychiatrists are trained to do counseling or talk therapy and give tests as well. They are considered medical doctors or MD’s, and are therefore licensed to write prescriptions. Take note again that whether a psychiatrist chooses to engage in other activities like counseling or psychotherapy and psychological testing, is entirely up to him or her. In the Philippines, most psychiatrist specialize in giving prescriptions.
For those who are engaged in talk therapy, psychotherapy or counseling, they would normally have areas of specialization, depending on the segment of the population they feel most competent to work with, and in the theory that guides their practice. There are different perspectives that can be used in talk therapy. Some of them are behavioral, psychodynamic, cognitive and existential. There are quite a few who choose to be eclectic in their approach. This means they use different theories that they feel can be helpful to their clients or patients, who present different concerns to them.