Different roles of mental health professionals

MENTAL health has been a hot topic over the last few months in Malaysia and other countries due in part to the strain brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Should individuals suddenly find themselves in need of consulting a mental health professional, here are some pointers on what they should consider.

Most high-functioning adults would require the services of a professional counsellor to meet their mental health needs as they face stressors in life, such as relationship problems, isolation due to the pandemic, grief from loss of a loved one, mild depression, mild anxieties and social discrimination.

Counsellors are trained to help their clients navigate roadblocks in the mind using talk therapy, which has multiple bases. These include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), person-centred therapy, systemic family therapy, art therapy, and humanistic therapy. These approaches are usually sufficient to help people overcome their mental roadblocks and achieve wellness, especially if they practise the strategies taught to them during counselling sessions.

There will be a small percentage of society who may require further mental health assessments to diagnose their mental health condition. These are usually more serious concerns, which may include anxiety attacks, mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, eating disorders such as anorexia, psychosis such as schizophrenia and even developmental disabilities or intellectual disabilities.

These individuals would need to consult a clinical psychologist who is qualified to perform a formal mental assessment and provide an initial diagnosis. A formal diagnosis is usually required for medical purposes for further testing and insurance claims as well as court-related matters such as assessing the mental state of a victim of crime or even a criminal.

Many health professionals are moving away from formal diagnosis, unless it is absolutely necessary, due to

the stigma associated with mental health disorders.

Clinical psychologists can also curate a treatment plan for most diagnoses using evidence-based talk therapies such as CBT or psychotherapy.

And there will be those who would need to consult a psychiatrist. Individuals in this group tend to have more psychiatric mental health concerns such as major depression disorder, panic disorder, psychosis, hallucinations, eating disorders, and etc. This category of individuals may require medical interventions such as pharmaceutical drugs to help them with their mental health concerns.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who are primarily trained to treat the brain as a chemically-functioning organ in tandem with treating the mind. However, they can also assist clients to address their mental health problems, such as grief or marriage challenges (using non-medical approaches such as psychotherapy).

All of these three mental health professionals work in collaboration with one another. For example, if you make an

appointment with a counsellor but he/she deems you may need further medical intervention or a formal diagnosis, he/she will refer you to either a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. Similarly, if you are seeing a psychiatrist who deems that you do not require medical intervention such as pharmaceutical drugs, he/she may refer you to a clinical psychologist or counsellor for talk therapy or psychotherapy. Whatever your needs, these professionals are there to help.


Post-graduate student in professional counselling

Subang Jaya

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Mental health professionals


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