⚠ Warning: you may find this controversial! AND THAT’S OKAY .
(Not everyone needs to agree with MY opinion, but MY opinion belongs to ME )
Ever since I started my recovery Journey I have noticed a lot of controversy and questions with regards to the differences between what a therapist or psychologist provides versus a mental health advocate like me.
Many Mental health advocates don’t have a degree and did not go to school to learn about mental health, but given that they have personal experience with mental illness and recovery, I like to think that they went to what I call the school of life. Most mental health advocates have done a tremendous amount of research and education through their own personal healing to understand the underpinnings of mental health, illness and recovery.
After listening to my podcast (and years before) and hearing my personal story where I speak openly about how I dealt with my own struggles in mental health and learning that I utilized the assistance of psychiatrists, therapists and holistic healers, many people ask me what the difference is between all of the options out there. People seem confused and in need of direction regarding when to pivot from traditional therapy to healers or spirituality.
Therefore, I’d like to spend some time clarifying what each individual’s role is in the mental health space and how each professional can help using their forte. We will also cover the reasons that one who is struggling with depression, bipolar or an eating disorder, might choose one type of healer over another.
Before we delve into the subject any further, it needs to be made abundantly clear that, while we may parallel some insights and have a shared goal of helping those that are struggling to attain wellness, the way that each professional reaches that goal is vastly different. It is also very important to note that no one can heal a person besides the person that is going through the struggle. They have to do the work but they can utilize the various healers as a type of navigation system to help them reach their goal. Additionally, it is vital to recall that no one way is right or wrong. They are all simply different avenues to help a person reach clarity in order to heal. Every person has their own unique struggle in life and it’s not one size fits all.
Because therapists have years of experience as well as education and a degree, this allows them to understand how to guide a person from emotional instability to one of comfort and clarity. Additionally, therapists have specific tools to be able to assist a client who is struggling with mental health challenges.. Their work is primarily focused on understanding the mind through the lens of various psychological theories throughout the centuries. On a personal note, while therapy did not get me to be productive in the way that coaching did, it did help shift my mindset so that I was able to understand why I was stuck. That being said, it didn’t help me get un-stuck. In contrast to therapists, the training that coaches have varies tremendously and is not as in-depth. Having said that, I know that they do a tremendous amount of amazing work. A great coach asks questions that help you start reaching for the answers on your own.
A great coach never gives you the answers-they expect you to dig deep and come up with the answers, understanding that you always have the answers inside of you. In my personal experience, coaches understood where my internal motivation stemmed from and used that to help me get out of the rut I was in and get into productivity; moving, doing things, and making changes.
For some people, it’s very unnerving to work with someone who doesn’t have a degree. But at the same time, it could be so comforting to work with someone who walked the same path as you. You might feel that this particular coach understand you. That is why, when I was struggling, I chose to work with people that had struggled in the past and figured it out. I worked with people who subsequently became energy healers, mindfulness coaches or the like.
Sometimes good therapists can act like a coach in that they can help you navigate the questions and find the answers. I didn’t have that experience but such therapists do exist. A therapist and a coach have completely different ways of showing up for their clients. Deciding on a therapist versus a coach largely depends on what you are battling internally.
Another option is going to a holistic practitioner or a consultant like myself whose counseling is more geared toward mindfulness, intuition and changing your mindset. People like me didn’t practice on other people; we practiced on ourselves. There is no greater school in life than doing the work on yourself.
To better understand the difference between going to a therapist and a holistic consultant, let’s create an analogy of an aspiring businessman who has two routes available to start their business. Either they can go to a business consulting firm and pay to get an MBA graduate from an Ivy League school, who will give them a set of rules that will lead them to success, or they can go to someone who succeeded in life financially, despite a lack in education. Many of the best consultants out there are high school drop outs who are now millionaires. They know what works, what doesn’t work and what’s trending now, how to overcome obstacles that are specific to current business trends and more. They are educated through trial and error.
When it comes to obstacles that get in the way of healing such as depression, anxiety, family dynamics and relationships, many people who went through traditional therapy and counseling feel like they are still stuck and they want to speak to someone who went through their particular struggle and healed through various types of therapies out there and found what works.
There is something deeper in speaking with someone who experienced a similar situation and succeeded on the road that you are currently navigating. This is especially true when the road that you are on is filled with roadblocks and potholes and you feel like you need to speak to someone who did this brutal walk through life and survived.
While therapists spend hours being monitored by professors and those who understand the mind very well, holistic consultants are students of life, walking the walk and doing lots of reading and research along the way. Whichever route you choose to go, every practitioner needs divine guidance to say the right words and have the necessary compassion and clarity to connect to those who are coming to them for guidance.
My hope in writing this article is to demystify the options available in the mental health arena and to clarify that therapists, coaches and holistic consultants differ greatly. Each person needs to find the option or combination of options that works best for them and to understand, always, that each option is valid in its own way and we need to respect them all. Some people won’t ever go to therapy or to a psychiatrist who will prescribe medication. Some people are only willing to work on mindfulness, gratitude, boundaries and forgiveness in order to forge a path ahead. And still others are interested in digging deep into their past even if it is painful and time-consuming so as to understand where their issues stem from.
A word of caution should be noted regarding medication management: No one, other than a psychiatrist, should prescribe or offer medication or suggestions for medication based on personal use or otherwise. Only a psychiatrist who is trained in medication management should recommend a course of medication and treatment. Even with their schooling, there are many psychiatrists who fail in following through with proper medication management.
In the end, no one wants to be in darkness and everyone wants to heal. And those who are helping people to heal are doing so because they are inherently good people and they want to help people, no matter what their education is or what brought them to this helping profession.
When we understand that everyone is doing their job from a place of giving, it provides a little bit of comfort that everyone can choose the path that works best for them and that, in the end, reaching our goal of mental well-being is most important of all.
With much love and deep gratitude to all my Psychiatrists, Mentors, Therapists, Coaches and Healers
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