Life Coaching, Counseling, Psychotherapy, or Psychiatric Consult --- Which One is for Me?
It's great that more people are seeking professional support for their well-being needs. After all, there is no health without mental health. Pandemic or not, living up to our full potentials, coping with stress, pursuing our goals, and addressing mental health issues are desirable goals.
But which professional would work best for your needs? This article introduces the different professional services and how they can be of assistance.
Life Coaching is a helping relationship aimed at enhancing the personal, professional and relational lives of people.
Life coaches work with generally well clients: everyday folks who do not suffer from a diagnosable mental health issue like major depression or anxiety disorders. Life Coaches are typically strengths based, and assume that their clients are more than capable of solving their problems on their own --- they just need a “coach” to guide and motivate them towards the right direction. The coach listens to the client and surfaces their values, passions, skills, needs, and wants to help them move forward in life.
Life Coaches provide listening and exploration, teaching, and motivation. The coaches use techniques from positive psychology, theories of motivation, and sports psychology. Issues that life coaches can help with are extensive, from lack of motivation at work to help in cultivating good habits, to finding ways to thrive and flourish.
While it may seem that anyone can be a Life Coach (and the internet is full of self-declared life coaches), it is best to seek coaches with training and a coaching accreditation from a reputable regulatory organization. Those bearing Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and Master Certified Coach (MCC) credentials have been evaluated for both their conceptual understanding of the principles and ethics of coaching, and went through supervised practice hours.
Counseling also belongs in the category of “talking" interventions, although expressive arts, behavior exposure, and play modalities can also be used. Through a confidential, professional, and trusting relationship, a guidance counselor or a psychologist will help you to get to know yourself better, vent emotions, explore thoughts/feelings/behavior, and plan for change.
Like Life Coaching, Counseling is more short-term and focused on normal life issues such as personal development, stress management, non-complicated grief, career planning, and managing transitions. But unlike coaches, counselors can handle both well clients and those diagnosed with mild clinical mental health conditions.
Counseling can be more exploratory that Life Coaching, working with thoughts, emotions, and behavior within the client's awareness and subconscious, exploring both past and present life events to fix unhelpful patterns, and can guide towards healing, not just growth. Life coaching is typically future-and-action-oriented, as well as life-skills-oriented instead of treatment-oriented. This said psychoeducation is also often part of counseling sessions. Counselors use a wide variety of theories of personality and counseling modalities depending on client's presented concern, the counselor's skill, and what is the evidence-based modality recommended.
Counseling in the Philippines, according to the Professional Regulation Commission, should be offered by a Registered Guidance Counselor (RGC) or a Registered Psychologist (RPsy). The Psychological Association of the Philippines also provides certification for counseling psychology specialists.
Psychotherapy is similar to counseling, but is more intensive, longer, and can address more serious presentations. Psychotherapists also provide assessment aside from treatment of mental health concerns. Psychotherapy is recommended for clients with diagnosable mental health disorders, but it can also be for those who need more intensive changes in thinking, feeling, and behaving patterns in order to function and thrive. Issues you can consult to psychotherapists include, but are not limited to, self-harm, ongoing anxiety and overwhelm, obsessive-compulsive behavior, major depression, emotional eating, fears and phobias, stress and trauma.
Like with counselors, psychotherapists employ many and varied techniques. It is not unusual that several approaches are used eclectically or are integrated to provide help for one condition. Your psychotherapist should choose an evidence-based strategy for your needs. You can consult with your psychologist regarding what would work best for you.
Some of the more popular means of psychotherapy includes the use of cognitive-behavioral techniques (managing thoughts and patterns of trigger-response), psychodynamic techniques (analyzing childhood roots of behavior and unconscious needs), reality therapy (teaching clients to identify and go after what they really, really want), Gestalt therapy (looking at the whole instead of parts) and systemic therapy (analysis of relational dynamics that cause or maintain problem behaviors.)
Psychotherapy in the Philippines, according to the Professional Regulation Commission, should be offered by a Registered Psychologist (RPsy). The Psychological Association of the Philippines provides certification for specialists in assessment and clinical psychology.
You may also be asked to consult a psychiatrist for your concerns. A psychiatrist is a licensed medical doctor with specialization in mental and behavioral concerns. They provide assessment and diagnosis, as well as pharmacotherapy or medications for mental health concerns. Some psychiatrist also provide some talk therapy, although not as extensively as that of a psychotherapist.
Psychiatrists typically deal with clients with a mental health disorder: clients whose concern cause significant distress, may be going on for a long time, affects their daily functions, or makes them a danger to themselves or others.
It is not true that when you seek a psychiatrist, your concern is more serious than that typically consulted to psychotherapy. Biological approach is just one approach to mental health, and medications can help with chemical imbalances that contribute to mental health symptoms. Often, a combination of pharmacotherapy and counseling/psychotherapy is helpful for those with mental health concerns. However, some concerns are better if treated with medication. These includes chronic sleep problems, concerns about reality testing (hallucinations/ delusions), deep and long-term depression, and symptoms that do not respond to talk therapy.
Choosing the Best Support for You.
It is understandable if this list is confusing, as there are many overlaps among services offered by various professionals. You can always opt for a pre-appointment inquiry/intake interview with the mental health professional or center of your choice to ask if they’re the appropriate person for your concern. Mental health practitioners are ethically bound to refer clients to the right professional if issues presented to them don’t fall within their field, or if their services is best complimented by another professional. It’s usually the seriousness of the concern and the preferences of clients that decide which professional is most suitable.
Just don’t forget: regardless of whom you go to, pick someone that has the training, experience and supervision that will make them safe and effective. There’s nothing wrong in asking your mental health-service provider if they are qualified and to request a copy of their license or accreditation to practice. Mental Health providers and centers should also be able to show a business permit and issue you an official receipt as proof of legitimacy. Remember that there is real danger in going to someone who is not experienced or is only a self-designed "professional." You would not entrust you physical health to someone who has no evidence that their methods work, so why should you do the same for your socio-emotional well-being?
This being said, the reality is there is not enough licensed and trained mental health professionals in the Philippines. For this time, seeking paraprofessionals (e.g. those with training in mental health first aid or empathic listening) are okay for mild to moderate concerns. Talk Therapy is also just one way towards well-being; there are many other pathways you can explore including lifestyle changes, joining support groups, exercises and nutrition, faith-based activities, and mindfulness/meditation. And yes, for our non-clinical concerns even our friends and loved ones can offer support! Just remember to match your support needed with your need. If uncertain or if symptoms persist, it doesn't hurt to seek additional help or a professional opinion.
Would you like to book a session with CPPS? You can request for an appointment for counseling, psychotherapy or psychiatric consultation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by accomplishing the form found in THIS LINK.