Should I Look for a Psychologist or Therapist?

Updated on November 17, 2010
K.R. asks from El Cajon, CA
20 answers

Motherhood brings on HUGE life changes--hormonal imbalances, career changes, and responsibility for totally dependent little people.

I'm struggling to deal... I've fought off minor depression but I still get in the dumps and have no idea my purpose in life and what ends I should be teaching my little'ns towards... My career is in limbo too. I have happy days, but I am generally unhappy and HAVE to do something about it!

I'm going to look at what my insurance offers, but do I look for a psychologist or a therapist? And what qualities should I look for in selecting one? This is so personal that I'm scared.

P.S. my kids are ages 3yr and 22 months. (I was nursing while pregnant with #2 and became knee deep in diapers for a while!)

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So What Happened?

thanks everyone! I am not so depressed to need medication, so I think I'll seek out therapists first, and then psychologist if I need more medical terms to satisfy my needs. I think I just have to talk out all the crazy thoughts that have been circulating through my head. I liked the suggestion of clergy too, and I may approach them after the therapist sets me in the right direction. I'm going to ask my pediatrician and OB/GYN for referrals.

Esp. thanks for already answering my next Q, that I don't have to feel obligated to stick with one... to try a few sessions and then decide if he/she is a good match for me.

Sounds like I'm not alone, so thanks for the tips and I hope my Q helped some other moms too.

Featured Answers



answers from Boise on

I went through this. Do you know anyone that has seen someone? The best thing to look for is someone that you click with. Themselves as people, and also their methodology. You are really looking to talk through things, so you have to feel comfortable enough to open up with them, what is on the wall, doesn't matter as much.



answers from Indianapolis on

Probably need to go psychiatrist, they can prescribe meds. You definitely sound depressed and meds would probably help

More Answers



answers from Atlanta on

Hi K.,

First of all, kudos to you. Motherhood is indeed a huge adjustment and challenge. This has nothing to do with the fact that you truly love your children. Of course you do. Being responsible for them 24/7, however, 365 days a week, can be physical, emotionally and mentally very, very exhausting. Right at this very moment, I have my 3-year old crouched on my lap with a pen that I am trying to convince her to use on paper and not on my clothing or on her or my skin. Her older sister is sitting in the living room with a new dragon toy we bought today. She's into dragons. This is about the first quiet (yeah, right!) moment I have had all day. It won't last but a minute, I am sure. Dinner is cooking in the oven. The race continues constantly. I am surprised it is not a requirement that moms have therapeutic or psychological support in place the DAY they become pregnant.

So, on to your question -- a psychologist and a therapist are trained in often the same things, with the real difference being that a psychologist will often understand further the psychobiological changes that depression and anxiety can bring, whereas a therapist often has training in the result, but not so much the cause. Some do. Some do not. Degree-wise, a therapist will usually have an LPC, MSW, LCSW or MFT degree. A psychologist will have a Psy.D or a Ph.D. Both are doctors, whereas a therapist is often a master's level professional.

In my opinion, both are valuable. If you end up being prescribed an antidepressant, it might be useful for you to see a psychologist. He/She can help in explaining what biologically might be going on with you. If you've got the insurance coverage, see if you can have both.

I wish you all the love and support in the world.

All my best!


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I am sorry that you are feeling down in the dumps, but do give yourself credit for taking the steps necessary to get help. Personally, I have a hard time asking for help so I applaud you for posting this question.

As for therapists.. Definitely shop around. I have been in therapy at different points in my life and realized somewhere down the road that the type of therapist you want, depends on YOUR needs at that time.. example.. for me, I wasted a lot of time with a therapist that really didn't specialize in post traumatic stress which was something I needed to work on. It was only later on that I figured this out. I didn't early on because I was in my early 20s and really too young to know specifically what I was looking for in a therapist other than, I needed to talk to someone... Years later and thankfully so, I became acquainted with a new therapist whom in fact deals with trauma..
When looking for a therapist, You might want to make a list of things you want to work on. Therefore, you can be sure to get someone who is a good fit for you and truly, vice versa.
Additionally, when and IF you find a therapist, try out a session or two... DONT feel obligated to stick with just one person.... it's YOUR TIME AND DIME... so get someone you feel comfortable with.. Additionally, I might add that make sure the therapists takes some kind of notes. I went to one for quite some time (again, when younger) and she NEVER took one single note.... the better therapist I found down the road did and was soooooooo much more attuned to me and of course, having taken notes , we could always go back to where we left off...
Lastly I will add.. don't expect miracles overnight.. change doesn't happen that way (well depending upon the change you are looking for) I always say, that one hour session is one thing, but it's what you do with the other 23 that counts.. it's truly where the hard work comes into play...
There is nothing wrong with needing to see a therapist so try and not be fearful... EVERYONE needs help at one time or another..
and too, hey if you don't like it, you can always stop going...

best to you

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Awesome job recognizing you need assistance with how you're feeling.

A good place to start might be with your primary care physician or your ob/gyn. It is likely that they may know professionals that would be a good match for you. I always rely on my PCP and OB for *any* referrals. They've never done me wrong!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I would also look into getting your hormones, thyroid levels checked by a Doctor who knows more than just the standard testing. There are several kinds of which test all of the hormones, not just estrogen. You want to see the 'free' and 'unbound' levels of all three estrogens, progesterone, and testosterone (progesterone was the one that was zeroed out for me - huge difference in how I felt once we added in BIO-IDENTICAL progesterone). Do not let them put you on the pill. Thyroid levels will be the same 'free /unbound' levels of T3 and T4.

About your career... I love what I do and can work anytime I want with great flexibility. Getting out to work more takes my mind off of what is happening with me medically. Check out my website and let me know if you have any questions.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I would search for a therapist with specific experience in treating postpartum depression. They will be best suited to help you. You may also need a psychiatrist at some point if you choose to go on medication, but you can work with your therapist on that and they can make recommendations. Your insurance can give you a list of providers within your network. Then, I would suggest setting up brief (like 15 minute) calls with a few different people to find the therapist that you best click with.

You may also want to try to find some kind of support group. 1-1 therapy is great and will help a lot, but I think sometimes it can help to talk to others in your situation so you don't feel like you are the only one having these feelings.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I've had an ongoing relationship with a great therapist/counselor. She is able to refer me to a psychologist if need be (if meds had been in order). Therapists tend to cost less than a psychologist, too.

I think that, because you have some anxiety around seeing someone, give yourself three or four visits before deciding to continue or terminate a therapeutic relationship. If it's an obvious mismatch, then don't waste a lot of time, but if it's anxiety or depression, hang in there a bit.

Is there any sort of PPD hotline in your area, or website/resources? I ask this because we've one in our area and they do have therapists they refer out to for just these sorts of concerns. Also, your GYN can also be a big help in this regard, so I'd check in with them as well and see who they might suggest. This might even just be a phone call instead of a full office visit, so please look into this option.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I think the most important thing is the relationship you have with the person rather than their degree.

If you think you're going to need meds, then you'll need someone who can prescribe them, but if you think it can be handled by talk alone, then it doesn't really matter.

I'm not sure if I can say this here, but I found a great psychologist from the Psychology today website (they have lists of them by area/subject/etc).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boise on

In my experience, psychologists are far better qualified than therapists. I would see if their morals jive with yours. Neither therapists nor psychologists can prescribe medication, but in my opinion, that is a good thing. Psychiatrists have not impressed me. They tend to be too medication-happy.

However, if you are looking for your purpose in life, it may save you money and help you much faster to look to God and religion. You could get counseling for free from some clergypeople, and it doesn't necessarily have to be total religion. Or, if you have a really good best girlfriend with a positive attitude, or a group of positve, like-minded moms that understand how hard motherhood is, getting together with them and talking about everything I think really decreases depression.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

You're on the right track and kudos to you for being so honest with yourself, and seeking the support you need! More than the credentials, it is most likely going to be the relationship that you will develop with a mental health professional that will be the most healing. Having said that, I would see if you can find a clinical psychologist specializing in women's issues.

Best of luck in your healing process!



answers from Los Angeles on

Please be very careful with meds. Something like Prozac changes your brain chemistry in a way that will make functioning without it very hard later. Try other things first. Can you possibly fit exercise in? Maybe an hour of swimming or a dance class twice a week? That can do wonders! Good Luck, and don't pressure yourself.



answers from San Diego on

talk to your ob/gyn about this - if it is post-partum (you didn't say how old your kids are), your ob can prescribe anti-depressants for you and you can see if that helps before to take the next step of seeing a psychiatrist/psychologist/therapist.



answers from Los Angeles on


Just to clarify- many psychologists ARE therapists and vice versa, and psychologists do NOT prescribe medication (your psychiatrist or primary care physician would do that). Focus on fit- do you feel comfortable with the person, can you trust them? If you know people who are in therapy you might get their referrals or at least advice on what questions they asked in the initial consult (feel free to talk to the therapist/psychologist a lot on the phone first). You can also get referrals through your health insurance.

I'm so glad you are getting help! This is a great gift to your children. No need to feel bad about it- so many of us have been there!!



answers from Portland on

Please get help with your depression, for your sake and for the rest of your family. Start with your family doctor. He or she can start you on an antidepressant medication and may recommend talk therapy with a psychologist too. Good luck. Make your appointment soon.



answers from Washington DC on

Hi K.!

Also, don't rule out good nutrition and proper rest. - eating more dark leafy greens and other things your specific body/blood type needs. (Consult a good nutritionist.)

Additionally, check out , watch the brief film that loads onto the screen and any other brief films you wish to watch. Then, click on the "Contact an Auditor" tab and fill out the form so you can get a FREE session and other very reasonably priced services scheduled for you at the center nearest you. (In this case, "auditor" refers to some who listens) I myself do this type of counselling on the weekends and have helped many men, women and children over the past 5 years. Best wishes to you!



answers from Biloxi on

For me, I got more help from a therapist than a psychologist or psychiatrist. Most therapists have either one they deal with in the event you need to have tests run or meds prescribed. But, if you are just looking to talk to someone to help you work thru all this..a therapist or social worker can do this. I look for someone who makes me feel comfortable on the first visit and remembers what I tell them on the second or third visit.

I had a psychiatrist once who would have me repeat everything I said at the first visit every time I saw him. I didn't feel comfortable. I saw another one who always did the talking..weird becoz wasn't he suppose to get ME to talk? Of course, you always want to make sure they are licensed and it is displayed when you walk in.



answers from Visalia on

Sounds like you might benefit from a good therapist (could be psychologist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker or Marriage, Family Therapist) (don't know what state you live in and licensing varies from state to state, but you definitely want an experienced, licensed therapist) who you can relate to. As an MFT, I work with a lot of women who are "redefining" themselves after having childen. Parenting in itself is a life changing role!

There is definitely a "click" factor with chosing with and staying with a therapist. The best one for you likely would be a therapist you felt really listened, understood your feelings and could offer some paths for you to explore. You may have to try a couple of therapists before you "click"...but do perservere! You might need a low dose antidepressant and you definitely would want to review your nutrition (are you getting enough protein and good vegies and fruits), sleep patterns (it can be difficult to get really good sleep with young children), exercise (at least get out and walk 20-30 mins a day) and your connectedness with others. What is your spiritual life like these days? You might want to take the Myers-Briggs Inventory, which is used to determine personality and temperment related vocations. It is often used in vocational and life coaching, As a therapist , i give this Inventory frequently.
Just remember you are at a crossroads in your life. Consider how to balance parenting with career, self-care, relationships and community. Good luck in your journey!

Bev A./
Visalia, Ca.



answers from Las Vegas on

I've tried both. The therapist I saw asked me a lot more about how I was 'feeling'. The psychologist talked more about finding out the core reasons I was having the 'feelings'. I preferred the psychologist but actually found that group therapy was best. I was able to meet other women who were feeling a lot like I was. I felt that I had some camaraderie with other people who really understood me. No matter what you choose just remember that if you don't feel like it's working you can try something else. Also I would recommend the Le Leche people. They can probably direct you to a provider or group in your area who can help. I know that once I stopped breastfeeding my PPD really spiked. I deal with clinical depression so it's not new to me but the PPD was much harder than I expected. I found myself in a much bigger hole than I realized. As I got treatment and started to see clearly again I was shocked at what I'd turned into. Keep looking for help until you get what you need.


answers from Los Angeles on

You're kind of near UC San Diego.
Call their school of social work or psychology
and ask to talk to someone for suggestions
of how to find an appropriate therapist.
Also, you can browse the web and read descriptions of therapists
in your area to see if any of them seems
especially well-matched for your needs.
Good luck.

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