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  • Writer's pictureAnn Yebei

What is a Therapist?

Updated: Jul 2

Blog Post #5: Mental Health Professionals

 

I will preface this article with this disclaimer: I’m a therapist. I’m a mental health counselor.


I won’t lie and say that I wouldn’t love for people to use therapeutic services provided by those from my industry, however, as we see in my various posts, I am not saying this is the “only,” “best,” or “compulsory” way to heal and partake in self-exploration. So while I will be hooting for myself, and others, I won’t sideline the alternative interventions available which are at times cheaper!


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Definitions


Shrink: “another term used to refer to mental health professionals, including therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. The word “shrink” comes from “head shrinkage,” which refers to the ancient practice of shrinking the head of a conquered enemy. Thus, “shrink” originated as a slang term that people used to refer to mental health professionals. The term is largely outdated and belongs to an era in which mental health treatment was a source of shame. While there remains a stigma surrounding mental health today, getting treatment is far more widely accepted than it was when this term was more commonly used” (Therapy Group of NYC).


Also, this term is used as an endearment by many! So while it's evolved to have a different meaning, should we accept this nickmane? Another topic for another day!


Advisor: “a person who gives advice in a particular field” (Oxford Languages)


Counselor: “a person who gives advice on a specified subject”


“a senior officer in the diplomatic service”


[US/Irish] “a barrister”


[North American] “a supervisor at a children's summer camp”


“a person trained to give guidance on personal or psychological problems” (Oxford Languages)


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FYI: Female Therapists are Present in this Field

Therapist: “a person skilled in a particular kind of therapy”


“a person who treats mental conditions by verbal communication and interaction; a psychotherapist” (Oxford Languages)


Psychotherapist: “a person who treats mental conditions by verbal communication and interaction” (Oxford Languages)


Psychiatrist: “a medical practitioner specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness” (Oxford Languages)


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Personal Definitions


Simply put, we are trained, licensed, and accredited to provide psychological interventions for dysfunctional elements of mental, emotional, and/or behavioral responses to experiences. We assess, diagnose, and then treat according the case.


Anyone can be a client: a child, a youth, a young adult, an adult, an elder, couples, families, and groups of people or teams, along with and businesses or organizations at large. One could also argue that the society and smaller communities or populations are also treated as clients in interventions of research and awareness raising, or moments of social advocacy.


As I’ve said on my Instagram during the Word of the Day focused on “Therapy,” while anyone can be a source of advice, a sounding board, and a place of inspiration, they aren’t a therapist. This is a specific profession with ethical, social, and legal obligations to meet and there are means used facilitate safe exploration of issues and avoid re-traumatization or worsening of symptoms. Hence, fraudulent licensing or accreditation- and any ethical violations- is enforced with varying severities of penalties.


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Psychiatrist have Medical Training while Being able to Provide Therapy

Relevance


On that note, healthy friendships and present supports are enough to offset severe mental health conditions to some degree. A listening ear, an offered hug, a quiet and safe place-- these are all free! However, knowledge is not available equally so talking about therapy is relevant still.


After seeing the different labels mental health professionals may use to describe themselves, let’s just briefly touch on the relevance of this industry.


The therapy field did not start with favor in many cultures. Some did accept it as a natural part of the group and individual healing needed in society- and many societies had systems in place for healers, teachers, and advisors for those who are emotionally or mentally unstable. This isn’t new.


And, now, some say, we live in one of the bloodiest era known in human history, with a series of economic crashes and world-shaking wars, mental health challenges have been on the rise. Worldwide.


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Hurt People hurt People

This isn’t a joke. And this isn’t the time to regress back to times where dirty laundry of your life, homes, or families, “should” never be aired out. I promise that it will become toxins and sooner kill you than heal you. This is the era of Mental Health Awareness raising; of destigmatizing it and making it acceptable and accessible to people of all languages and socioeconomic situations.


I’m sorry if things have been hard. You deserve better.


So please do all you can to stand firm and heal- as you deserve to- so you can, truly, be free. You are not weak for seeking professional support. I’d argue this makes you stronger than anyone I know.


Here are some stats from around the world- for those who don’t know and/or still believe that mental health is not a "real" issue and shouldn't be a big deal.


  • Based on a 2022 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and CNN: 90% of the public believes there's a Mental Health Crisis in the USA. 30% of respondents could not access mental health care needed; 80% mentioned cost issues while more than 60% said stigma was one of the main barriers.


  • In response to the long waistlists and shortage of healthcare professionals, more interventions have been curated to allow for accurate assessments and resolutions in brief timespans- even 1 session.


  • The UK has noted significant increase in mental health problems.


"Between 2017 and 2022, rates of probable mental disorder increased from around 1 in 8 young people aged 7-16 to more than 1 in 6. For those aged 17-19, rates increased from 1 in 10 to 1 in 4" (BMA, 2024).


While COVID was a positive factor on the numbers- as noted around the world- England was nothing the same trends beforehand.


"The estimation of the prevalence of common mental disorders (for example, anxiety or depression) amongst adults aged 16-64, for example, had risen from 17.5% in 2000 to 18.9% in 2014" (BMA, 2024).


  • Following CNN's 2011 documentary on mental health care provision in Kenya called Locked Up and Forgotten, the neglect and abuse in Kenya's only national mental health institution was shown at Mathari National Mental Health Hospital. And once Kenya Human Right Commission audited the state of healthcare, they "found that psychiatric care still remains very institutionalized and centralized - with 70% of all psychiatric beds in Mathari Hospital" (Ibrahim, 2017).


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Healing and Connection is for All

  • From the World Health Organization (WHO):


"More than 700 000 people die by suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. Suicide is a global phenomenon and occurs throughout the lifespan.... There are indications that for each adult who died by suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.


"Suicide is a global phenomenon; in fact, 77% of suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2019. Suicide accounted for 1.3% of all deaths worldwide, making it the 17th leading cause of death in 2019".


Services


Moving from those numbers from different parts of the world, here’s a list to give you an idea of where you could find therapy provided, whether at a fee, with a fee sliding scale, at a discount, or for free:


-Schools and Universities


-Workplaces or through an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) for employees


-NGO’s


-Religious Institutions of Worship


-Therapy Private Practices


-Therapy Group Practices


-Community-based Organizations working with a Private Practice or Group Practice


-Hospitals and Clinics


-Telehealth or via an Online Platform like BetterHelp


-Rehabilitation Centers


-Home-based Therapy Providers


-and More!


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Here is a list of some of the interventions that may be used in therapy. Do remember that the mix used depends on the needs, wants, and goals of therapy. The approach may also be impacted by the specialization, training and certification of the therapist, that is, if they are able to provide the requested or needed intervention style or approach. 


-Trauma Informed Therapy


-Theoretical Based Therapy (E.g. a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist will approach cases through the lens of Cognitive Behavioral Theory of Therapy and Treatment Approaches)


-Play Therapy


-Theraplay


-Sex Therapy


-Occupational Therapy


-Career Therapy


-Marriage and Family Therapy


-Group Therapy


-Individual Therapy


-EMDR Therapy


-Expressive Arts Therapy


-and so…so…so much more.


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Your Health. Your Choice. Your Life.

Conclusions and Reminders


Alternative options apart from therapy include group support based on hobbies or a shared spiritual faith. Peer mentorship, professional mentorship or life coaching, and personal introspective and journaling practices, are all other ways one can attain support and guidance through their various challenges. Of course, don’t disregard your holistic health and see medical and psychotherapeutic professionals once it’s evident it may be more than a lifestyle or worldview concern.


Therapy’s ultimate goal is to support your recovery towards wellness. Whether this is in-person, online, or a mix of both, it’s a healthcare service with the aim to empower and equip you so you are more resilient and capable of navigating life better than before.


 

Sources: Ibrahim, M. (2017). Mental health in Kenya: not yet Uhuru.

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