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Cover Story

Minding the mind

The complexity of the human mind gives rise to varied mental health problems. In order to get the right diagnosis, it is important to understand which expert you need to consult.


A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who will assess you for neurological or psychiatric disorders. In the medical model, the mind or psyche is a biological entity where treatment takes the form of medication to correct chemical imbalances. A psychiatrist makes a diagnosis and prescribes appropriate medication.


Alongside psychiatry there are a host of other approaches, clubbed together as psychotherapies, which help in treatment of mental illnesses and disorders. A psychotherapist is a trained licensed professional who uses interpersonal, structured interventions to help individuals, or groups (such as a family), with emotional and psychological problems.


Psychoanalysis is a form of psychotherapy which was developed by Sigmund Freud. A psychoanalyst doesn't give advice or suggestions but attempts to provide a perspective into aspects of your self that are hidden in the subconscious. The aim of psychoanalysis is unravelling, understanding and then reworking infantile/childhood experiences in more adaptive ways. Think of Billy Crystal in Analyze This.


He is a professional who specialises in diagnosing and treating emotional disturbances, and behaviour problems. Psychologists can only use talk therapy as treatment;you must see a psychiatrist to be treated with medication. Psychologists may have a master's degree or doctorate in psychology. They may also have other qualifications, including Board certification and additional training in a type of therapy.


Typically problems related to your education and career can be addressed with the intervention of a counsellor. He helps people resolve problems related to 'role' issues at work, school, or in a family set up. He is more of a 'problem solver'who, through direct advice or other forms of guidance, helps the client make informed decisions. If counselling does not allow you to get closure on the issue, you may need psychotherapy to help figure out deeper conflicts within yourself.

--With inputs from Madhu Sarin

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