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A question that I get asked quite often is: how do I know when to see a therapist? Or another way that people often phrase this question is: how is seeing a therapist any different than talking to a really good friend?
I often say that it is important to see a therapist when you notice yourself feeling overly stressed, overwhelmed, or struggling with mental health symptoms consistent with depression or anxiety. Although friends can be a great source of support, it can be difficult for friends to be completely objective and neutral. Oftentimes when we’re talking to our friends we become concerned for their emotional wellbeing, so we often hold back and not share everything that we really need to share. So seeing a therapist is a way of dedicating time on a consistent basis to your own mental health and seeking support.
If you notice that your symptoms when seeing a therapist are not improved then we might need to consider a referral to a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Many psychiatrists – although they do also do psychotherapy – prescribe medication. So when medication becomes needed, seeing a psychiatrist can be the next step in getting the help that you need.