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Senior Contributor

Psychiatrist versus Psychologist

I have been seeing my psychiatrist for over 6 years. He is my rock. He knows how I feel, think and breathe. He is the third psychiatrist i have seen throughout my life. The first one was when I was 14 and the second when i was approximately 20. I am now 58. In between i have seen a myriad of psychologists and counselors and unfortunately they never recognised me as having CPTSD. So i spent 38 years searching for answers but I never gave up.  During the 38 years i developed an addiction to alcohol which brought my life and the lives of my family nothing but mayhem and sadness. I have always been honest about my drinking and as such I would discuss this with the counselors and psychologists. Despite my disclosure of a myriad of other behaviors and things (including severe depression) occurring in my life, they always determined alcohol as the cause for all of my problems. If I were to give up alcohol then all would be good! I'm not suggesting that any substance abuse is good, what I am saying is that it is not the cause. Because of my personal experience I wonder if psychologists are able to identify the cause of substance abuse and or the symptoms of complex disorders such as CPTSD, which I have. Please, I'm not bagging psychologists I am simply putting this out there for discussion.


We must never give up!


Re: Psychiatrist versus Psychologist

Hi @silverspoon. I found it interesting to read about your experiences seeing a psychiatrist vs psychologist and counsellor. It's so great that you have such a helpful sounding relationship with your psychiatrist and well done on not giving up. That's a long time to have been searching for answers and what sounds like understanding.

My experiences are kind of the opposite of yours. I've seen a range of professionals over a fair few years now and in my experience the less clinical they are the more they seem to be able to pick up on and gently handle complex trauma stuff with me. I don't tend to do well with psychiatrists (at all) and now only see one if I absolutely have to or if my psychologist and/or doctor really want me to. It took my clinical psychologist a very long time to recognise that complex trauma (from family violence) even existed for me. I saw psychiatrists who also completely missed it and was misdiagnosed for a while. On the other hand, counsellors, social workers, family support workers etc. got/get it. Part of it for me is that I need a feeling of safety in order to disclose anything at all about myself and I haven't felt anywhere near safe around some professionals.

I think either way, it's super important for people to have access to a range of different services and professionals as there's no 'one size fits all' approach. Again it's great to hear you have someone very supportive to work with.

Re: Psychiatrist versus Psychologist

Thank you CheerBear

Re: Psychiatrist versus Psychologist

@silverspoon   I’ve never seen a psychiatrist or psychologist, but have seen councillors.  My first councillor I saw about 13 years ago after I lost my 9yo son in a car accident.  I only attended a few sessions.  She took lots of notes but always said my sons name wrong, even after I would correct her, she’d still say it wrong.  (Like saying Kyle instead are Karl  *not his real name). How can you take so many notes but not write the correct name??


The next councillor I saw was a bit of a stop-gap while my husband and I waited to get a real marriage councillor around 2 years ago when our marriage started to crumble.  The straw that broke the camels back was that my husband took my SIL’s side in an argument we had the night my father died.  This councillor we started with kept getting my name wrong and she’d call me by my SIL’s name - my faith in counciling was starting to get shaky about then.


A couple of months later we got the actual marriage councillor.  He was really good.  About a year ago I started seeing him one on one for CSA, (in between marriage counseling sessions) something I’d kept secret for 40years, and he was really helping me with that. I haven’t ever been “officially” diagnosed with anything, I don’t have a label so to speak - but he has said quite often that I have PTSD.


I had a lot of faith and a huge amount of trust in this man.  About a month ago something happened in our family, I was made to be the fall guy and was terribly hurt by my husband and my son, so much so that I have since seperated from my husband.  I was also terribly let down by my councillor- something he has now acknowledged and apologised through a couple of texts, but I have lost all trust in him.


I have ceased counciling with him, and feel like I’ve been burnt too many times to ever go to another councillor ever again.  I keep hearing that their are some good ones out there, I thought I had one, but it seems I had it wrong.  So for now, it’s back to keeping it all locked up inside.


Re: Psychiatrist versus Psychologist

@silverspoon  hello a very interesting topic indeed. I would start by saying that as in most professions there are people who are good at their jobs and people who are not. 


in my expeirence over all i have found psychologists to be better in general than the other professionals (i have seen psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and mental health nurses and counsellors) the social workers, nurses and councellors are probably the worst for me and psychiatrists are also mostly terrible and i find very uncaring except for about 2 i have met. as for psychologists it is hard to find a good one and most of them are bad but there are some rare gems that can be really great. i am probably biased but in my expeerience 90% of mental health workers suck and you just get lucky if you come accross someone in the 10% that doesnt. 


but also it does really depend on what your issues are and i find if you go anywhere outside the relm of depression and anxiety then your chances of finding someone good become much slimmer. 


and again this is just my personal opinion and experience. 


Re: Psychiatrist versus Psychologist

@silverspoon  Hey CKS I am like you and have had more luck with psychiatrists then psychologists. In fact I actively avoid psychologists now as I have found them to be micky mouse compared to my psychiatrist that I have now and others that I have had in the past. 


Re: Psychiatrist versus Psychologist

Nice topic and discussion @silverspoon .  I've enjoyed seeing you round on the forum.


I find phsychologists more helpful than psychiatrists.  I had a real hard time communicating with the latter, but, I was in a fairly poor state at the time and didn't really understand what was going on.


Re: Psychiatrist versus Psychologist

Hi Razzle
I think it would be a good idea to search out another person who can support you. Don't give up. You need someone Razzle!

Re: Psychiatrist versus Psychologist

I think like a lot of things it really comes down to chance.


Some people have better experiences with psychiatrists, others with psychologists. Psychologists generally have a more cognitive focused treatment style (likely due to them being unable to prescribe medication), whereas psychiatrist a lot of people find focus predominantly on medication.


Either way, it is unfortunate that they tried making your alcohol use out to be the underlying cause. Alcohol is far more likely to be used as a mechanism of coping with an underlying disorder. PTSD and alcohol use are highly correlated, and should have been a first thought for sure.


Re: Psychiatrist versus Psychologist

Hello...... this is my first posting.

Reading everyone's comments makes me feel that I am not alone in my opinions.  Since I was in my early teens I have always struggled with depression.  I am now 48.  A few years ago, my thoughts were so dark, I made the decision to talk to my GP to get help.  I was referred to a psychiatrist.  It's an overwhelming experience to have to open up and tell all your dark secrets.  I opened up but after the 4th visit, he left to go elsewhere, so I was alone.  I saw no-one else for about a year - still struggling.  My GP referred me to a psychologist to help me with my self-esteem, which he did somewhat - CBT/Mindfulness.  But didn't help with the dark thoughts and I really wanted to talk about my years growing up because I went through experiences which I know was making me feel the way I was.  He left after 8 visits.  My GP referred a psychiatrist - talking over skype (he was interstate), but I was wary of opening up again.  He stayed with me for about 2 years but I found I would only tell him things that he wanted to hear.  He only talked about the now even though I was trying to tell me about my past.  I was put on so many medications (started one, then stopped, tried something else on so on).  He told me to also see a psychologist which I did, but after the first session with her, I never returned.  I confused her with my answers - would say one thing and then another (but my thoughts were not making sense to me) and she implied that because I was getting the first 10 sessions for free (medicare) that I should be grateful to see someone.  I was so angry (another one of my traits that I struggle with).  So I made the decision to stop seeing her, my psychiatrist and come off all my medications.  With guidance from my GP, I slowly came off all of them, although after about 5 months, I couldn't function in the world so I went back on one of them but at half the dose.  It's been 7 months.  I live in a country town (not many resources here), finding someone you can trust - psychiatrist and psychologist is so difficult but when you do, be honest with them and yourself.

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