Exploring Should I See a Therapist or Psychologist for Anxiety?

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on August 13, 2023
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Anxiety is a common mental illness and health concern affecting millions worldwide. Its impact on daily life can be overwhelming, making it crucial to explore effective treatment options.

If you don’t want to take medicine and want to focus only on therapy, a therapist might be a good choice. But talking to a psychologist, doctor, or psychiatrist might help if you’re open to trying different medications or if your symptoms worsen.

The Online Mental Health Review Team is qualified to write about whether to see a therapist or psychologist for anxiety due to our expertise in mental health counseling and psychiatric-mental health.

This article will explore whether seeing a therapist or psychologist is the right choice for anxiety treatment. We will discuss common anxiety symptoms and their effects, compare the benefits and drawbacks of therapy and psychology, and provide guidance on when to consider seeking therapy.

Additionally, we will explore alternative options for anxiety relief and conclude with actionable steps to ensure the most effective treatment plan.

Anxiety Symptoms and Their Effects:

Journal Prompts for Anxiety: A Comprehensive Guide to Overcoming Anxiety Through Journaling
  • Anxiety manifests in various ways, including persistent worry, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath.
  • These symptoms can significantly impact daily life, leading to decreased productivity, strained relationships, and compromised overall well-being.
  • Recognizing and addressing these symptoms is essential to prevent them from escalating further.

Pros of Therapy for Anxiety:

  • Emotional support: Therapists provide a safe, non-judgmental space to express your feelings, fears, and anxieties.
  • Customized approach: Therapy sessions are tailored to your needs, ensuring personalized treatment plans.
  • Skill-building: Therapists equip you with practical tools to manage anxiety symptoms and improve overall mental health.
  • Long-term benefits: Therapy addresses the root causes of anxiety, leading to sustainable results.

Cons of Therapy for Anxiety:

  • Time commitment: Therapy often requires regular sessions over an extended period, which may only suit some’s schedules.
  • Cost: Therapy sessions can be expensive depending on location and insurance coverage. However, many therapists offer sliding scale fees or accept insurance.
  • Availability: Access to qualified therapists can be limited, particularly in rural areas or regions with a shortage of mental health professionals.

When to Consider Therapy for Anxiety

Therapy is highly recommended for individuals struggling with moderate to severe anxiety symptoms that interfere with daily life.

Therapy can provide invaluable support if anxiety significantly affects your relationships, work, medical school performance, or overall well-being.

Additionally, therapy can be an excellent choice if you prefer a non-medication approach or want to explore underlying triggers and patterns associated with your anxiety.

Alternative Options for Anxiety Relief

While therapy can be highly beneficial, it’s essential to consider alternative options for anxiety relief, especially if treatment is not accessible or doesn’t align with your preferences.

Here are a few alternatives worth exploring:

  1. Self-Help Methods: Engaging in self-help techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, and practicing relaxation techniques can complement therapy or serve as standalone strategies for anxiety management.
  2. Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed alongside therapy or as a primary treatment option for anxiety. Please consult a psychiatrist or primary care physician to discuss suitable medication options and their potential benefits and side effects.
  3. Healthy Lifestyle Habits: Incorporating healthy habits into your daily routine can significantly impact anxiety levels. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, a balanced diet, and reducing stressors can contribute to overall well-being and alleviate anxiety symptoms.

Choosing the Right Treatment Plan for Anxiety:

When considering therapy or psychology for anxiety treatment, take these actionable steps to ensure an effective treatment plan:

  1. Research and seek recommendations: Look for licensed therapists or psychologists specializing in anxiety treatment. Seek guidance from trusted sources such as friends, family, or healthcare professionals.
  2. Consider compatibility: Schedule initial consultations with potential therapists or psychologists to assess their approach, expertise, and overall compatibility with your needs and values.
  3. Ask questions: During consultations, ask about their treatment methods, experience, and success rates in treating anxiety. Inquire about any concerns or doubts before committing to a long-term treatment plan.
  4. Review credentials and reviews: Check the credentials and qualifications of therapists or psychologists, ensuring they are licensed and reputable. Additionally, read online reviews or testimonials to gauge the experiences of others who have sought their services.

Please know there are various anxiety treatments online for free, too.

The Difference Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist

The difference between a medical doctor, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist is commonly discussed when seeking help for anxiety and depression. While both professionals can assist, understanding their distinctions can help individuals make informed decisions about their mental health care.

  • Psychologists are experts in human behavior and hold a doctoral degree (Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.) in psychology. They specialize in psychotherapy and counseling, utilizing various therapeutic approaches to help individuals cope with and overcome psychological challenges. Psychologists do not prescribe medication but often collaborate with psychiatrists or other medical professionals if the remedy for bipolar disorder is deemed necessary.
  • On the other hand, psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in psychiatry. They undergo medical training followed by specialized training in mental health. Psychiatrists are authorized to diagnose mental health disorders, prescribe medication, and provide therapy. They often treat severe or complex mental health problems, conditions that may require a combination of treatment and medication management.


Both psychologists and psychiatrists play essential roles in medicine.

  • Psychologists focus on therapy, employing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based treatments, and psychodynamic therapy. These approaches help individuals understand and manage their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors associated with anxiety and depression.
  • In addition to therapy, psychiatrists can prescribe medication as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Medication, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs, may be recommended based on the severity and specific symptoms of anxiety or depression.

It is essential to consider individual preferences, the severity of symptoms, and the complexity of the mental health condition when deciding whether to seek help from a psychologist or to see a psychiatrist first. Consulting with a primary care physician or speaking directly with a mental health professional can provide further guidance.

Choosing a Psychologist

Choosing a psychologist is essential when seeking mental health treatment and support. Find a professional who aligns with your needs and makes you feel comfortable.

Here are some critical tips for choosing a psychologist:

  1. Seek Referrals: Ask for recommendations from your primary care physician, friends, or family members who have had positive experiences with psychologists.
  2. Research Credentials: Look for psychologists who are licensed and have appropriate certifications. This ensures that they have met the necessary qualifications to provide quality care.
  3. Consider Experience: Consider the psychologist’s experience in dealing with specific mental health concerns or age groups. Some psychologists specialize in anxiety, depression, or working with children or couples.
  4. Assess Therapeutic Approach: Different psychologists may use various therapeutic approaches. Research and consider which approach aligns with your needs and preferences. Standard procedures include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, or mindfulness-based therapy.
  5. Check Insurance Coverage: If you have health insurance, ensure that the psychologist you choose is covered under your plan. Contact your insurance provider or consult their directory to find psychologists within your network.
  6. Please schedule a Consultation: Many psychologists offer initial consultations or phone calls to discuss your needs and determine whether they fit you well. Use this opportunity to ask questions and assess your comfort level.
  7. Trust Your Instincts: Feeling comfortable and trusting your psychologist is essential. If you need to connect better during the initial sessions, consider finding another professional who better suits your needs.

Finding the right clinical psychologist here is a personal process, and finding the best fit may take some time. Don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion or explore different options.

Differences in Treatment: Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist for Anxiety?

When it comes to the mental processes and treating anxiety, there are differences in the approach of psychologists and psychiatrists.

  • Psychologists primarily focus on treating mental illness by providing therapy, using techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, or mindfulness exercises to help individuals manage their anxiety. They work with patients to identify thought patterns, develop coping strategies, and promote overall mental well-being.
  • On the other hand, many psychiatrists and psychologists are medical doctors who can prescribe medication for anxiety disorders. They often combine medicine with therapy to provide comprehensive treatment. Psychiatrists evaluate patients, diagnose anxiety disorders, and monitor the effectiveness of prescribed medications. It’s important to note that both psychologists and psychiatrists can play valuable roles in treating anxiety.

Research shows that medication and therapy are equally effective in reducing anxiety symptoms, and some individuals may benefit from a combination of both approaches.

If you’re unsure whether to see a psychologist or psychiatrist for anxiety, it can be helpful to consider your specific needs and preferences.

A psychologist may be a good fit if you prefer a non-medication approach and want to focus solely on therapy. However, consulting with a psychiatrist may be beneficial if you’re open to exploring medication options or have more severe symptoms.

Ultimately, deciding between seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist depends on individual circumstances and personal preferences.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety Video

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely recognized and effective treatment for anxiety disorders. It focuses on the connection between negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Individuals can learn to manage their anxiety more effectively by identifying and challenging these patterns.

Numerous studies have shown that CBT can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms and improve overall well-being. It is often considered a gold-standard treatment for anxiety and stress-related disorders.

The therapy involves working with a trained therapist who helps patients recognize and restructure negative thought patterns and behaviors. Through techniques like exposure therapy, individuals are encouraged to gradually face their fears, which is an essential step in managing anxiety.

Remember, CBT is one of many therapeutic approaches for anxiety disorders. Other evidence-based treatments for mental disorders, such as medication and mindfulness-based therapies, may also be practical, depending on individual circumstances.

If you’re considering CBT for anxiety, it’s advisable to seek guidance from licensed and experienced mental health professionals who specialize in this therapy. They can provide tailored treatment plans and support throughout your journey towards managing anxiety.

Should I see a therapist or psychologist for anxiety Conclusion:

When considering seeking help for anxiety, it’s essential to understand the roles and expertise of therapists and psychologists.

Both professionals can provide valuable support for managing stress, but there are some factors to consider in making your decision.

Therapists, often including psychologists, offer a range of therapeutic interventions and techniques to address anxiety symptoms. They provide a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals to explore the root causes of their anxiety and develop effective coping strategies.

Therapy is recommended for individuals experiencing moderate to severe anxiety symptoms significantly impacting their daily lives.

Psychologists, however, can provide comprehensive assessments and diagnostic evaluations to identify underlying mental health conditions. They have expertise in understanding human behavior and can tailor treatment plans based on a deep understanding of the individual’s psychological needs. Psychologists may also collaborate with psychiatrists to provide a holistic approach that combines therapy and medication if necessary.

For further reading, please check out: private practice pay, therapist pay per session, approach, online therapy pay, online counselor earnings, Amwell therapist pay, and psychologist versus therapist.

We encourage our readers to leave a comment below with any questions about therapist earnings or career questions!

Also, tell us what mental health software to review next on Online Mental Health Reviews. If you have stories about using a particular product or know of a discount code, please share so everyone may benefit!

If you are in a crisis

Suppose you are in an emergency and cannot wait for an online therapy appointment. In that case, it is crucial to prioritize your mental health provider and safety. Dial 911 immediately if you need immediate assistance or are contemplating self-harm or harm to others. Additionally, you can contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 for immediate help. Contact the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 800-662-HELP (4357) for confidential mental health or substance abuse support. This service is available 24/7, 365 days a year, and can assist you in accessing treatment and obtaining relevant information.

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