When you make the decision that you might want to find a professional to help you figure out how to deal with being “crazy,” it is hard to decide where to go. Not knowing where to go or who to go to, often people turn to their friends and family. Most of us know someone who has seen some kind of doctor for mental health issues. Those who don’t know someone who has a therapist, or admits to having a therapist, often go to their General Practitioner. While this is a place to start, if often becomes the point where people stop.
While my first experiences with therapy and professional help began at the age of ten, many people start this journey in their teens, or even later in life. Others never take the plunge because it is scary to admit that we might just need outside help.
There is No Shame in asking for Help.
Now if you start by seeing your general practitioner you should keep in mind that they are trained to help with a variety of average health issues, but mental health is not really one of them. They can and will prescribe medication to you as a short term fix for whatever symptoms you are having. However, it is best if you seek help from another source beyond your every day doctor. If you don’t know where to go, ask your doctor they should know of someone to recommend for longer treatment.
In most cases your GP will recommend a psychiatrist, this is because often you have been prescribed some medication to help with your symptoms. However, you may feel that medication is not a route that you want to take. If you are against taking anything for your problems your best bet is to seek out a psychologist. The first therapist/psychologist I used as an adult I found through Google. This is a great way to start because you can look up the therapist’s website, their reviews, and get to know a bit about them before you ever make the call.
Talking vs. Medicating
Now in my experience I have found that the best form of therapy is one which there is both talk therapy and supplemental medication. While I went through several stages of discovery on this topic in my own life, hopefully anyone reading this will have a much easier time of finding the right treatment for themselves.
My first therapist adventure I was ten. I was having problems with impulse aggression at school. Now I wasn’t getting into any physical confrontations, but I was walking out of class and yelling at adults whom I thought disrespected me. (I am one of those people who never really thought they were a kid, and therefore I felt I should be treated as an equal by any person I was interacting with.) I don’t know what this first therapist told my mother about my diagnosis, but I do know I only saw her a few times, and I got the distinct impression she didn’t like me much. So the moral here is: If you feel like your therapist doesn’t like you, find someone else.
My next therapy adventure was at 12, my family had moved to Florida that summer and my mother decided that it was time to give treatment another shot. This therapist made me play with dolls. I thought this was ridiculous because I was 12 not 7. However she was very nice and understanding. She told my mother that I had “an extreme personality and that she would have to learn to live with it.” I’m sure you can guess I never saw her again.
At 16 my mother again decided to help me and unhappy with the experience and expense of the actual mental health professionals we went to see the family doctor. He didn’t think I was depressed, but gave me my first prescription: Paxil. The side effects were horrible, and within a few months I took myself off the medication. So: If your doctor thinks that you are not depressed, yet prescribes you a depression medication, Get a Second Opinion.
I went along as my crazy self for several years and then at the age of 21 I started having anxiety/panic attacks. Our family doctor had changed and I went to him for a solution. (To this day, I’m not sure he was the greatest Doctor, but his name was Robert Frost, so I loved him.) He nicely gave me a small prescription for Ativan. A year later I went back to get another prescription, but he had moved away and the Nurse Practitioner changed me to Klonopin.
I stayed on this medication until I was 25 and I got post partum depression. This is when I found my first therapist on my own. She was great, but unfortunately not what I needed at the time. Also I felt as if she didn’t really understand the problem, since she was childless I didn’t see how she could help me with a problem you only get from being pregnant. So I found my first psychiatrist.
The next six months were a crazy adventure into ever changing medications, which ended very badly. So my advice here is this: If your doctor doesn’t talk to you about how to fix your problems and eventually go off medication, Find a New Doctor.
So I quit the therapy thing, and the doctor thing, and swore off medication. This lasted a year and a half. Then I found it necessary to go back on medication. I found a new doctor, who was amazing, and went through new medication trials. I was treated with both talk therapy and medication and until he retired, I was in a very good place.
Now I’m back to a drug only psychiatrist. This could or would be hazardous, but since I have learned so much about my particular disorder it isn’t. I am also seeking a new psychologist because talking to someone you do not know can be a very enlightening experience.
So to answer the question of which is better, psychiatrist or psychologist, the answer is both. Check back soon for the chart on the pros and cons of each.
Don’t bitch it… Blog it…