Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specialised training in psychiatry and mental health. As medical doctors, they are able to prescribe medication and diagnose mental illness.
Psychologists have specialised knowledge in human behaviour. They study the brain, memory, learning, human development and are interested in how we think, feel, behave and react. Psychologists can help people to find ways of functioning better. For example, they can assist people to handle stress, communicate better, regulate feelings and resolve family problems. Psychological therapies are also widely used by groups and organisations. Some psychologists specialise in treating people with a mental illness or disorder or may work with specific populations including those who have experienced trauma. Psychologists study human behaviour in their undergraduate and postgraduate degrees before undertaking supervised experience and gaining registration. Psychologists do not have a medical degree, however many study for a similar number of years to specialise in various aspects of psychology. For example, clinical psychologists study for at least six years to attain their qualifications. Psychologists do not prescribe medication. Psychologists and Clinical Psychologists are registered providers under the Medicare, Better Access to Mental Health Scheme, which means that eligible clients can claim a Medicare rebate for up to 10 sessions (with a referral from a GP, psychiatrist or paediatrician). Some of the above information was adapted from the Australian Psychological Society. www.psychology.org.au
Psychologists and Clinical Psychologists are registered by legislation with the Psychology Board of Australia and The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Social Workers hold a minimum 4-year university degree and have between 800-1000 hours of supervised practical experience prior to graduating. Social Work is a diverse field with some social workers choosing to work in community development, social policy development, individual casework and case management, in mental health and in counselling and psychotherapy (often in private practice). Social Work is a holistic approach and has a dual focus of working with individuals (groups or organisations) as well as promoting greater social change (structural or ‘systemic’ change). Social workers have sound training in the applications of counselling and evidenced based therapies and have usually studied psychology and behavioural science in their undergraduate degrees. Social workers locate individual experiences within the wider social and political contexts and work to promote change at the individual and community level. Social workers are bound by a code of ethics which promotes a commitment to social justice. Mental Health Social Workers and/or Clinical Social Workers have specialised training and experience in working with mental illness/disorder. Mental Health Social Workers are registered Medicare providers under the Medicare Better Access to Mental Health Care Scheme which means that eligible clients can claim a Medicare rebate for up to 10 sessions, with a referral from a GP, psychiatrist or paediatrician.
Despite popular opinion, psychologists are not automatically a better treatment option for those suffering a mental health issue and many clients will benefit from the holistic focus that social workers employ. Social workers have a long and proud history of working with complexity including trauma and complex trauma presentations.
Accredited Mental Health Social Workers are members of the Australian Association of Social Workers.
“The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) currently adheres to the following draft definition of social work that is jointly endorsed by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and International Association of School of Social Work (IASSW)”
“The social work profession facilitates social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledges, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing. (March 2013)”
Counsellors. There are many different views as to what counselling is and there is much diversity within the counselling profession in terms of training. Some counsellors have studied for a relatively short period of time, where others may have university degrees and post graduate qualifications.
In life, events or situations can occur after which the need for counselling may arise. People may find themselves in situations where they need an objective and trained person with whom they can discuss a difficult or traumatic event, relationship or emotion.
There may be considerable overlap between what a psychologist, social worker and a counsellor do, however they may have different theoretical bases on which they apply their skills and knowledge. Many psychologists and social workers will refer to themselves as ‘counsellors’ in addition to their other qualifications as counselling techniques and theory are usually part of their undergraduate training.
Counsellors listen, provide feedback and assist a client to gather resources and formulate options to move forward from such circumstances. Contrary to popular belief, counselling is not giving advice to, pathologising or labelling a person. Good counsellors seek to help clients clarify issues, form perspectives and move forward.
As professionals, counsellors are expected to have suitable tertiary qualifications in counselling or the behavioural sciences and membership of a peak body such as the Australian Counselling Association, www.theaca.net.au.
Life Coaching is a process that is i) directed, ii) task and future focussed and iii) about developing a mentoring relationship between client and coach that assists a client to move from their current to desired situation.
Coaching is about identifying client goals and aspirations and working with a client to ensure that these are achieved within a framework that empowers and inspires the client. Coaching identifies client resources, builds upon these and empowers a client to seek development and guidance in areas that need to be built upon. Once again you are best to check the training and experience of a Life Coach prior to seeing them.
There is currently only one university accredited coaching program, offered at the University of Sydney. Other life coaching training is provided within the private sector including RTO’s (registered training organisations).
Coaching can focus on:
- Career and workplace issues