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“My stomach has been hurting me for a while now, who’s the best doctor to consult about this?”. “My daughter is getting these stabbing headaches, we will go to Dr. X because he’s super qualified and got his PhD from the USA”. When it comes to physical pain and struggles, we tend to do our best effort to find the most qualified professional to handle our case. We go to more than one doctor and get second and third opinions to make sure we’re on the right track.

Such behaviour is definitely encouraged and should be how we approach big decisions affecting our lives. However, that does not seem to be the case when it comes to our psychological and mental health. A significant amount of people are quite confused about the mental health field and have difficulty making decisions about what kind of professional they should seek help from. This can simply be due to the scarcity of mental health professionals in Egypt or/and the lack of awareness about the topic. In this week’s article we will scratch the surface of this issue and give you some hints about how to choose the person you’re going to seek professional
therapy from.

Typically, there are a variety of mental health professionals each with a specific job description. In Egypt though, there are mainly two kinds of professionals; psychiatrists and psychologists. It can be a bit confusing to understand the difference between both and when to go to either of them. In a nutshell, psychiatrists are the medical doctors who went into medical school and can prescribe psychiatric medications. The essence of their job is to find the perfect medication for their cases and manage their progress. Psychiatrists usually deal with more severe disorders like schizophrenia and sever clinical depression. On the other hand, psychologists are the ones who graduated from psychology programs and/or have a master’s degree in counselling or clinical psychology. Psychologists deal with less severe cases, like anxiety or panic, and do not prescribe medications to their clients. The ultimate model would be for both professionals to work simultaneously and refer cases to each other when needed.

Pro tip: Please do not go to a psychologist who does not have at least a master’s degree in a relevant branch in psychology. Your mental health is important; don’t trust just anyone with it! As a result of the high demand on psychological services and the lack of awareness about the whole concept, some professions have emerged that can sometimes be confused with counselling or therapy. Many people seek professional psychological help from life coaches thinking that it is equivalent to therapy. Unfortunately, this is a huge misconception. Life coaching can be about helping the clients set goals, make plans and maybe achieve them.

CAUTION: Coaching is not therapy in any form and cannot be used to deal with psychological problems and mental illnesses. The training received by the professionals who offer coaching services is neither adequate nor relevant to what happens in therapy rooms. Please note that this is not in any way an attempt to belittle other professions and what they do, it is just a method of clarification of the differences between one profession and the other fuelled by the
urge to maintain a safe therapeutic environment for clients.

I would also like to highlight that no matter how qualified your therapist is, it can simply not work. We are humans and getting along with someone is not something we can really control. Finding a therapist that you feel comfortable with can be quite a long journey, so please don’t give up. I want to encourage you to not be embarrassed whatsoever about asking your potential therapist about their credentials. There is nothing offensive in wanting to know the background of the person helping you and making sure that they’re qualified for the job. Your mental health is as important as your physical health. And always remember that not all wounds are visible; take care and stay safe.

See you next week!


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1 comment

  1. I have been to 3 psychiatrists and only the last one whom I found comfort in talking to him, but I need to ask more questions about how he’s handling my case as he diagnosed me that I have depression while others told me I have severe anxiety, can you help answering my questions?

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