The brain has varied ways of coping with different intense emotions. It is often considered or theorized to be well-wired enough to deal with these intense feelings and emerge a balanced individual. However, when we repress our desires to deal with intense emotions arising from tendencies like anxiety or pathos, we often leave them unaddressed. This leads us to experience stress, as the brain loses its familiarity with these intense patterns of thought.

In this case, there are several physical and emotional cues that often alarm us, and make us wonder if we should seek help. In a country like India, where individuals often self-diagnose and end up going down the incorrect road for diagnostic help, understanding the protocols taken in different realms of care-based professions is imperative.

Let’s take the example of someone named ‘A’ who is facing a crippling tightness of the chest, with no other sure-shot symptoms. Panicking at the possibility of a heart-attack, the frantic individual visits a cardiologist. At the hospital, a host of diagnostic tests are run. The stress test and the Electro-Cardiograms all show normal results, and the doctor comes to a sound conclusion; it is anxiety that is translating physically to produce these symptoms.

Anxiety sometimes translates into symptoms such as a tightness of the chest.
Image: Peanuts

Now, even though a doctor would know what anxiety is and how it sometimes translates into physical symptoms that mimic heart-issues, he wouldn’t be well-versed with the cognitive parameters that guide conditions like anxiety. He’d tell them about the idea of visiting a psychologist or psychiatrist, and explain what the consequences of anxiety may be in the long-run. To a common person, this might be a trigger for gargantuan amounts of stress, from ruminating about what may happen as a result of the anxiety they face, to wondering what a psychiatry or psychology therapy session might entail.

Let’s take another case, where ‘A’ visits a psychiatrist’s clinic for advice about his anxiety. In the capacity of a psychiatrist, a professional is licensed to help identify and diagnose mental illness, and administer medication in order to deal with it. Psychiatrists may have knowledge about the nature of thoughts guiding certain disorders, but the approaches implemented by a psychiatrist, who is a medically qualified professional, are mainly rooted in finding the right medical tools to be administered towards making a solid difference in the behavior of an individual.

In the case of ‘A’ visiting a psychologist, the road taken for treatment would be drastically different. Psychologists are professionals that may or may not be medically qualified. They are meant to understand at the thoughts and beliefs that guide the human mind to function in certain ways. A Psychologist’s techniques would mainly come under the purvey of  on certain techniques of conversational engagement to help an individual  understand how their  beliefs may lead to certain consequences for them.

Psychiatrists usually rely on medication in tandem with some therapeutic techniques. Image: e-Magine Art on Flickr

From these arguments, it is clear that all these three cases involve drastically different skill-sets. The one common thread that links these cases is the fact that an individual assists help from a professional. However, the techniques used in order to give the individual a pat-down of what they need to do, are vastly different. In the case of a doctor, the physical cues are thoroughly analyzed in order to see whether the issues being faced are truly a result of impairments within one’s body, rather than the mind.

With a psychiatrist, the understanding of the cognitive parameters involved in a person’s mental-health condition is usually present, but the main aspects that are looked at are the biochemical aspects of brain function. However, this mix of approaches is vastly different from the methods implemented by a psychologist towards generating desired improvements in a client.

A psychologist uses an approach that is grounded purely in the realm of the human mind, rather than in medication. The concept of a therapy session is sitting down, and enabling a systematic string of questions that enables a psychologist and the individual to understand what their beliefs  may be.

The notion of focusing on beliefs rather than brain-chemicals is what makes Psychology distinct.
Image: Dierk Schaefer on Flickr

Methods such as Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy lay an emphasis on the domain of human cognition and belief, and how it often affects the outcomes we generate within our lives. At the end of a psychology session, or a whole course of therapy, an individual feels more equipped to deal with the facets of their thoughts that lead them to feel an adverse way.

Thus, it is clear that despite the same route towards well-being in all three cases, the approaches employed in each of these settings are poles apart. Having a thorough understanding of these differences can often help an individual mitigate the length of the road towards a sound diagnosis.

From these differences, it becomes clear that the science behind psychological therapy is vastly unique as compared to more medically grounded patterns of treatment. The principles that form the pillars of counseling practices, posited by Carl Rogers, are exemplary of how these professionals really tap into the stream of thought of their clients through the techniques they use. The notion of genuinity and a lack of judgment enable the client to feel that their therapist truly understands them, and shows empathy towards their condition, to enable them to feel a notion of trust towards receiving assistance.

The inner-beauty of the process, and the way it manifests productive relationships in a clinical setting, is truly marvelous to observe and understand.

An undergraduate in Psychology, Shantanu is an aspiring Educational Psychologist who will be pursuing his Master’s in 2018 at the Ohio State University. He is adept with psychometric and statistical research, and has honed his grasp over psychology through a 4 year undergraduate course in Liberal Education at FLAME University, Pune.