Should I go to a therapist or a psychiatrist?

Mental health symptoms are not easy to define. If you are dealing with them for the first time and want to seek help, you may also be wondering where to start. Which counselor is right for my symptoms? Do I go to a therapist or a psychiatrist? How does psychological counseling work and how do I get to the right counselor?

What does a therapist do?

A therapist holds a university master’s degree in psychology. This may have chosen different majors or specializations, but what therapists have in common is that they focus primarily on the connection between human behavior and mental health. In their treatment, most therapists then use various interviewing techniques or cognitive behavioral therapy.

What does a psychiatrist do?

A psychiatrist has studied medicine and graduated as a medical doctor with a specialization in psychiatry. Therefore, a psychiatrist views mental illness more from a medical perspective, considering the health of the rest of the body as well. Because a psychiatrist is a physician, he or she may also prescribe medication. Psychiatrists therefore often treat patients with severe or complex mental health problems, such as patients with schizophrenia, major depression, or psychosis. The treatment is often long-term and intensive.

Which mental health counselor is right for me?

If you have never received psychological help before, you will usually first see a therapist. Which therapist can offer you an appropriate treatment, depends on your individual problems and the specialization of the therapist. The Online Therapists employs all kinds of different therapists so that, on the basis of an intake interview, we can match you with the right therapist.

A counselor for every problem

For example, a cognitive behavioral therapist is appropriate if you are experiencing behavioral problems or obstructive thought patterns. A couples therapist can help you well with relationship problems. An occupational therapist offers support for work-related psychological complaints. And if you suffer from past trauma, an EMDR therapist may be able to help you.


Together with the therapist, you determine which treatment is right for you. If the therapist thinks it is necessary, you may be put in touch with a psychiatrist. This happens, for example, when the therapist makes a diagnosis for which medication is prescribed, such as autism, ADHD, depression, or psychosis. For treatment from a psychiatrist, you need a referral from a therapist.

Don’t worry about choosing the right counselor. At The Online Therapists, you will be matched with a suitable therapist based on your story. This is the starting point. If you don’t ‘click’ with your therapist, or if it appears that you need a different treatment, you will easily be referred. So you always get the appropriate help!


Want to get to know us first?

Request an online consultation with one of our trusted online therapists.

    Seeing a therapist for depression: the options

    Depression is one of the psychological disorders that affects the most people. Many people are affected by it at some point in his or her life. Therefore, it is important to seek help immediately if you have depressive symptoms. A therapist can help you prevent or cure depression.

    How do I know if I am depressed?

    To diagnose psychological disorders, therapists use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). This manual describes the symptoms of a variety of disorders, including depression. According to the DSM, depression occurs when you suffer from at least one of the two core symptoms and at least five of the seven other symptoms for at least two weeks.

    Core symptoms

    • a dejected mood (most of the day or all day)
    • a decreased interest in almost all activities (most of the day or all day)

    Other symptoms

    • eating problems or (as a result) weight fluctuations
    • sleep problems
    • flattened emotions or just irritation and restlessness
    • fatigue or reduced energy
    • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    • difficulty concentrating or indecisiveness
    • suicidal thoughts

    If your symptoms do not fully meet the description of depression, but some of these symptoms are present, then the diagnosis of ‘sub-clinical depression’ is often made. We then speak simply of ‘depressive symptoms’. If you are not sure whether you have depression or depressive symptoms, it is still (or perhaps most definitely) important to visit your doctor or a therapist. Early intervention helps to prevent the development of depression.

    How does a therapist help?

    A therapist will write a treatment plan based on your symptoms, your specific situation, and your wants and needs for the future. This treatment plan consists of conversations, in which cognitive behavioral therapy is used. In many cases, you will also be given very practical homework assignments. For example, you may be asked to keep a diary, do relaxation exercises, or undertake specific (social) activities.

    If you feel comfortable with this, or if it is simply more practical, these conversations can easily take place online. Online therapy via Skype or FaceTime offers you the opportunity to talk to a therapist from the comfort of your home. It is, therefore, ideal if you prefer not to go to a practice, or if you live abroad, but want to follow therapy in your own language.

    In many cases, eight to ten sessions are sufficient. If this is not the case, then a new approach can be chosen in consultation with the family doctor or another practitioner. For example, you may be referred to a psychiatrist, who may also prescribe medication.

    What do I learn in therapy?

    In cognitive behavioral therapy, you learn to influence your emotions through thoughts and behaviors. For this, it is necessary to learn to see yourself and your environment from a different perspective. Depression is often not so much related to external factors, but to the way you look at them and deal with them. One person can lose his or her job and apply for a new job the next day in good spirits, while another falls into a depression because of it. In therapy, you learn how to deal with these kinds of setbacks or other ‘triggers’, so that you can counteract depressive symptoms and prevent them altogether in the future.

    Almost half of the people with depression or depressive symptoms recover within three months. In others it keeps coming back. We then speak of a recurring depression. By seeking psychological support, you keep as much control as possible over your symptoms and you increase the chance of dealing with them better or even recovering completely.


    Want to get to know us first?

    Request an online consultation with one of our trusted online therapists.

      Is it possible to see a therapist during working hours?

      For a visit to the family doctor or dentist, your employer is probably understanding, but what if you go to the therapist every Tuesday morning? How does that work? Are you entitled to leave? And if so, will you be paid for this time?

      Special leave

      For special events, such as weddings, funerals and anniversaries, moving house, exams, union activities, as well as doctor’s visits, you as an employee can be granted special leave. However, the rules regarding special leave are not regulated by law but are determined by the CAO, the company regulations, or your specific employment contract. This not only states whether you are entitled to special leave but also when, for how long, and for what compensation.

      Leave for doctor’s visit

      Most employers expect you to schedule doctor’s visits, such as to the family doctor, dentist, or hospital, in your spare time. If this is impossible, for example, because you work full-time, or because the doctor in question is not available at the times you are free, then in most cases, you will be granted leave. However, this leave is not always paid. It is, therefore, possible that you will have to catch up on hours or take days off.

      The chance that you will get paid leave for therapy is relatively small. First, according to your collective bargaining agreement, a therapist must be considered a doctor. Officially, a therapist is not a doctor. A psychiatrist is, by the way. Secondly, for therapy, unlike a one-time visit to a doctor or dentist, you have to miss work time repeatedly. Some collective labor agreements have established a maximum number of hours of leave for doctor’s visits, which ultimately makes therapy during working hours impossible.

      The rules regarding therapist leave are therefore different for each profession or employer. Not sure which rules apply to you? Ask your employer about this.

      What if you don’t get a leave of absence?

      If you are in therapy for a long time, it is very annoying if you do not get leave for this. The number of hours of leave you have to take can quickly add up. Do you have a job that allows you to work evenings and weekends (from home if necessary)? If so, discuss with your employer whether you can shift your hours so that you do not have to take time off. After all, your employer also benefits from the fact that you feel better about yourself through therapy, so you have every right to ask for his or her cooperation.

      Is that not possible? Then consider online therapy. The Online Therapists have very flexible therapists who also work in the evenings or weekends. This way you can see a therapist outside of work hours.


      Want to get to know us first?

      Request an online consultation with one of our trusted online therapists.

        Can you see a therapist after a relationship breakup?

        Going to a therapist for heartbreak is a bit excessive, isn’t it? Maybe you are sitting on the couch with a broken heart right now and you are wondering this. The answer is: therapy after a breakup is absolutely not excessive! If you and your partner have broken up, there is a lot of (emotional) work to do. You have to find your own way again, learn new routines and habits, and rearrange your days. Grief can get in the way of this process. It is therefore not at all strange to get help for this.

        Why is therapy useful after a relationship breakdown?

        The influence that a relationship has on you as a person can be very great. Especially if you have been together with your ex-partner for many years, your identity has undoubtedly become inextricably linked to that of your ex-partner. Who were you before you met him or her? What was really typically “you” back then? Who are you without your ex-partner?

        The length of a broken relationship does not always say everything about its intensity. Even short relationships can have a big impact on a person’s life and identity. A broken relationship sometimes causes such big changes in the life and self-image of both ex-partners that the process of recovering from a breakup can be comparable to the grieving process after the death of a loved one. Therefore, it is best not to underestimate a broken heart.

        Signs that you are not coping with a relationship breakup

        For the first few days after a relationship breakup, you may very well feel like the world has ended. But over time, you should start to see some improvement – no matter how impossible it seemed at the beginning. Is this not happening? Do you feel like you’re not taking any steps forward and are the emotions surrounding the relationship breakup interfering with your daily life? Then online therapy offers a helping hand.


        • Your ex-partner has become an obsession. You are constantly concerned with what his or her life is like now. You keep trying to contact or win him or her back, or keep a close eye on his or her social media channels.
        • Activities you used to enjoy no longer interest you. The advice to take your mind off things and go do something fun is pointless. You no longer find anything fun, not even a little bit.
        • You suffer from physical complaints, such as insomnia, a loss of appetite, a weak immune system, headaches, or stomach aches.
        • You suffer from sudden insecurity. If you are the abandoned partner, you may suddenly have low self-confidence or self-esteem and be dominated by feelings of fear, despair, and loneliness. This hinders you in your daily activities.
        • You suffer from intense feelings of guilt. If you are the one who left your partner, you may suffer from guilt, regret, or shame. This is often the case when children are involved, or when the abandoned partner is in very bad shape as a result of the breakup.
        • Your new relationship suffers from the experiences of the breakup.

        How can a therapist help after a relationship breakdown?

        Being able to tell your story always helps. A therapist may be one of the few people who does not know your ex-partner, will not take sides, and can help you objectively. In most cases, therapy revolves around learning to deal with intense emotions and finding ways to redefine your own identity.


        Through cognitive behavioral therapy, you learn to regain control over your emotions and thoughts. There is plenty of room for your sadness, despair, or anger, but you learn how to let those emotions come and go without them becoming overpowering.


        Next, therapy focuses on you. Who are you? What do you want in life and what do you expect from love? What are your wishes, goals, or dreams? By rediscovering who you really are, separate from your ex-partner, you slowly regain faith in yourself. And that offers the space to think about the future and make new plans. A therapist can give you concrete advice on this, for example, on trying out new hobbies or making new contacts.

        Benefits of psychological help after a relationship breakdown

        Besides dealing with the breakup itself, psychological help offers even more advantages. In therapy, you learn a lot about yourself and you grow on a personal level. You are forced to think about what went wrong in your relationship, what part you played, and how you can prevent this in the future. You learn, for example, where you should set boundaries or how you can communicate better. It also becomes clear to you what you expect from love in the future. This prevents you from making the same mistakes in a future relationship or ending up in a similar relationship dynamic.

        Are you sitting on the couch with a broken heart and don’t know how to proceed? Then talking to a therapist online might be for you. Our online therapists are ready to help you right away. With online therapy, you can start processing your relationship breakup and build a brighter future within days.


        Want to get to know us first?

        Request an online consultation with one of our trusted online therapists.

          What can a therapist help with?

          If something is wrong with your car, you go to a garage. If the faucet is leaking, you call a plumber. And if your back hurts, you go to a doctor. But with which problem do you actually go to a therapist? Or when do you get online therapy? A therapist helps you with inner problems. Sometimes these problems are hard to recognize or define. So, what can a therapist actually help you with?

          Psychological symptoms

          All kinds of symptoms that have to do with your inner self fall under the expertise of a therapist. These do not have to be all-embracing, serious complaints. Trust your own intuition: do you simply feel that you cannot work something out yourself? Then a therapist can already offer a solution. In fact, the sooner you raise the alarm, the better. Every day a therapist speaks to all kinds of patients with the most diverse complaints. Your request for help is nothing to be ashamed of.

          Common symptoms

          Of course, there are some mental health symptoms or disorders that psychologists deal with on a regular basis. For example:

          • stress, overwork or burn-out
          • lethargy, fatigue, or sleep problems
          • gloominess or depression
          • relationship problems
          • trauma
          • insecurity or fear
          • loss or grief

          Perhaps you recognize yourself in one of these categories, but that does not have to be the case. Vague complaints, such as the feeling of being ‘stuck’ or ‘losing yourself’ are often discussed in a therapist’s office. Issues of meaning also fall into this category of vague complaints.

          How can a therapist help?

          Each therapist has a repertoire of treatment methods at his or her disposal. These include various interviewing techniques and behavioral therapy, but hypnosis is also among the options available to some therapists. Which methods are used depends on the expertise of the therapist, the preference of the patient, and the nature of the symptoms. But regardless of the methods used, a therapist always tries to offer you the following:

          • Knowledge: a therapist can give you reading tips or forward interesting links so that you can increase your knowledge about your specific symptoms.
          • Perspective: a therapist gives you an outsider’s perspective on your situation. When you are in the middle of a situation, it is sometimes difficult to see things clearly. This outsider’s perspective can be very enlightening and give you new insights.
          • Confrontation: over the years you have undoubtedly acquired certain characteristics, habits, or patterns which you have come to take for granted. A therapist confronts you with this and makes you realize that sometimes, if necessary, things can be done differently.
          • Possibilities: a therapist will give you as much concrete advice as possible that you can really get started with. Behaviors to try out, habits to learn, and activities to undertake. In this way, you can actively work on improving your situation.

          What does a therapist need?

          A therapist needs you! Therapy works best if you are as open as possible. This can be incredibly difficult. Especially in the beginning, when you don’t know your therapist very well. Or if you have problems you’d rather not talk about. But a therapist can only work with you if he or she knows who you are, what you think, and how you feel. The effectiveness of the therapy is therefore largely dependent on you.

          Still unsure if a therapist can help you? Just ask! Our registration coordinator knows exactly what is possible and what therapist from our network is best suited for you. If your question falls under the expertise of another therapist, then a therapist can always inform you about this and possibly refer you.


          Want to get to know us first?

          Request an online consultation with one of our trusted online therapists.

            Hi! How can we help you?