Who do you look for to get help?

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.

Counseling Psychology

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.

Clinical Psychology

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.

Psychiatry

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.