What's the difference between a counsellor and a psychologist? I didn't actually know this until very recently, when I started with a new psychologist. The Mental Health Foundation ACT website has a very good page which lays out the differences. This should be compulsory reading for all people seeking treatment for mental health issues, especially for those with severe trauma issues.
Previously I had been to three counsellors and a psychologist. Of the counsellors, only one was trained in specific trauma (rape), and she was excellent. At a time when I really needed help, she was there for me, but that was 10 years ago in a different country.
A counsellor I went to last year was also very good, but she was more generalist, not specific, so while she helped at the time the benefits didn't flow on.
The first psychologist, 4 years ago, was a dead loss - and not one I ever would have chosen for myself if I'd had the option, which I believe I should have had. While she appeared to be imminently qualified - B.Soc. Sc(Psych) Post Grad Dip Prof. Psych. MAPS - her empathy was non-existent. The other counsellor was self focused and didn't seem to give a rats about my problems. I don't remember much about her other than she talked the whole time and kept looking at her watch.
Over Christmas 2012, when I was completely alone apart from my dogs, I desperately needed someone to talk to who would understand my thoughts, feelings, emotions. Everyone was closed. My dogs were the ones who kept me sane and alive - I wouldn't have anyone to look after them if I wasn't around as my family were all out of town. My furry family became my lifesavers.
Last week I began seeing a new psychologist, and this one is amazing. She validates me. She gives me permission to feel the way I do. She accepts my problems and has plans for how she can work with me to make a brighter future for me. She is the door in my wall. I can see sunshine on my horizon. Her quals are Bachelor of Psychological Science, Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours), Masters of Psychology (Clinical), MAPS, but more important to me - she has empathy.
It's been 40 years so I don't have any misguided notions that my problems will be fixed within the 10 visits allowed by Medicare this year, but I feel more positive than I have for a long, long time. I have a focus for myself and a focus for my treatment, and a person who truly wants to listen and help. That alone is the difference that can, for me, make a difference. Isn't it often the way that we have to sift through the debris to find the nugget of gold?
If you are in need of help, don't let your GP tell you who will help you - do a bit of your own research and make your own choices. In Australia you have that right. Medicare limits your treatment so you need to ensure that what you do get is effective.
While professional ethics might prevent me from advertising the name of my wonderful new psychologist, I would definitely recommend the practice which put me in touch with her - Vision Psychology, 7 days, free initial consults. Blatant unsolicited advertising for people who were there for me when I needed it most.
Help when you need it - the way it should be.