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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Which one would be better for me a psychologist or psychiatrist?

    I have had depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder since i was 11. i'm now 26 and have diabetes it seems to be making things worse. I think my body is giving up and nothing seems to make it better. i just dont know what to do anymore. can some help me? i've never found the right psychologist. i just need someone to listen and go from there. but i'm really scared....
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    Alysha Coleman

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist

    Alysha is the Primary Clinical Psychologist and Director of The Institute for Healthy Living, a clinical psychology practice in Bondi Junction. Alysha has worked with … View Profile

    Psychologists and psychiatrists have a different focus on mental health issues. A psychiatrist has qualifications in psychology and medicine. Because of this training, they can advise you on how medication can help manage your symptoms. Psychologists cannot prescribe medication, so are more focused on helping you build skills and develop self-awareness to improve your day-to-day functioning.

    Neither approach is more correct than the other. It depends on individual cases. However, many people find a combination of the two to be most beneficial, especially if they are managing complex concerns like yours. Many of my clients see me on a weekly or fortnightly basis, and see a psychiatrist a few times per year to review their medication. I would suggest talking to your GP about whether this might be a useful approach for you.

    When people manage their symptoms with medication, any improvements are often undone when they stop taking medication, as they haven’t learned skills to change their ways of thinking and behaving. Medication can help you feel stable and in control while learning these skills. While psychologists have an understanding of psychiatric medication, whether or not you stop taking medication at some point is a decision that should always be made with your psychiatrist and/or GP, who have specialist training in how medication works.

    You also mentioned that you’ve never found the “right” psychologist for you. Studies repeatedly show that the most important predictor of a psychologist’s success is their rapport with you, their client. Don’t be embarrassed to politely let a psychologist know that you don’t think they’re the right fit for you. To find the “right” psychologist for you, make a list of the things you want and don’t want in a psychologist. Being clear about what you’re looking for will help you direct your search. Perhaps you can ask your GP or other health professional if they know anyone who meets your description, or look around on message boards for people with depression, anxiety, or borderline personality disorder in your area. Ask questions about what people did or didn’t like about their therapist: because everyone is different, what worked for one person may not work for you.

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    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    I endorse what Alysha wrote.

    In my case (I am in remission from Major Depressive Disorder) I got great help from a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist.

    My psychiatrist worked with me to find an anti-depressant which works for me as well as offering general advice and support.

    My clinical psychologist taught me Cognitive Behavioural Therapy methods and mindfulness/meditation techniques.

    My impression is that, as Alysha wrote, this dual approach (both pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapeutic modalities) is often more effective than either is in isolation.

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