When canvassing services for your mental health needs, it is not unusual to see the terms "mental health consultation" and "psychotherapy." At times they are being used interchangeably. However, while mental health consultation and psychotherapy share similarities, these two are very distinct services. Understanding the difference and asking clarificatory questions from each service provider can help you find the best support for your needs, as well as the best value for your time and money.
Here's how they differ:
Mental health consultation: This typically involves a professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, providing advice, guidance, and expertise on mental health-related issues. Consultation often focuses on specific concerns, such as diagnostic clarification, treatment options, or guidance for other professionals or caregivers involved in providing mental health support.
Depending on the consultant and the services they offer, consultation can be as short as 10 minutes spent to to ask specific questions or receive directives. But it can be also very thorough, with most skilled and value-adding clinicians opting to spend time gathering a detailed appreciation of your concern so that they can tailor fit their recommendations on your unique needs.
Psychotherapy: This is a therapeutic process conducted by trained mental health professionals, such as psychologists, counselors, or therapists. Psychotherapy aims to explore, understand, and address emotional and psychological challenges by using various approaches or techniques. The focus is typically on personal growth, symptom reduction, and improving overall mental well-being.
While a consult is short-term, psychotherapy is typically several sessions long, depending on the agreed-upon objectives. And unlike a consultation, it typically involves processing of thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
In summary, mental health consultation generally involves seeking guidance and advice for specific issues, while psychotherapy typically involves an ongoing therapeutic relationship aimed at improving mental health and addressing personal challenges.