Mental Health

Psychiatry vs. Talk Therapy: How to Decide

We get it: mental health care is tough to navigate even on a good day. But on the days when you might be feeling low, unmotivated, or just blah, figuring out the best path forward can seem insurmountable. 

The terms talk therapy, psychotherapy, and psychiatry get thrown around a lot in conversations about mental health. But what do they actually mean? And which one is better for you right now?

We’re here to break it down so that you can make an empowered choice for your own mental health care journey.

What is talk therapy?

Talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, is the treatment of mental, emotional, behavioral, and personality disorders using tools such as discussion, listening, and counseling. Talk therapy is provided by licensed professionals who have been trained in social work, psychoanalysis, or both. 

The goal of talk therapy is to provide people with a greater sense of self-understanding and compassion, while building tools that they can use to help regulate their emotions around life and the events that cause distress. 

How long does talk therapy take before I start feeling better?

Talk therapy looks a little different for everyone! At its core, talk therapy is based on the development of self-understanding and learning new coping skills. This stems from a strong relationship with your therapist, which can take some time. That being said, there are lots of moderate duration therapy treatments (12–16 sessions) that have been scientifically shown to result in improvements.

People typically feel a sense of immediate relief when starting therapy, in part because they’ve taken the first step and feel a sense of empowerment. Most people report feeling better within the first few weeks to months of talk therapy, but many continue to see their therapists for a year or longer. For them, seeing their therapist is similar to going to the gym or getting a haircut — it’s part of their routine and feels integrated into their lives. 

How do I know if it’s working?

This can differ from person to person, but most people experience a sense of ease, self-compassion, and improved ability to handle stressful life events. For specific issues like anxiety, working with a therapist can help you develop tools to help retrain your mind, resulting in fewer anxiety symptoms.

Got it! Now what about psychiatry?

Psychiatry is the field of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Practitioners of psychiatry (called psychiatrists or psychiatric nurse practitioners) are medically trained and are able to prescribe medication and focus on finding the right medication and treatment plan for their patients. 

When starting psychiatry and medication at Mood, you’ll have access to our holistic care model which includes medication deliveries right to your door, daily mood checks, and concierge customer service to make sure you’re feeling your best. 

How long does psychiatry take before I start feeling better?

Again, this differs from person to person. People may begin care with a psychiatrist as a result of a one-time, sudden event (such as a trauma) or for ongoing feelings of depression or anxiety. Typically, a patient will work with their practitioner to try a treatment plan that may include medication, and then have ongoing monthly check-ins to monitor how the medication is making them feel. 

Taking medication for depression and anxiety is not one size fits all. While some people take medication over a long period of time because it helps them feel better, it doesn’t have to be permanent.

How will I know if psychiatry is working for me?

This depends on each individual. Like with other types of treatment plans that include medication, there’s a period of time during which your body adjusts. Typically, it takes a few weeks to start feeling the effects of the medication, and up to a few months for the medication to take full effect. 

OK, I get it now! But how do I choose between psychiatry and talk therapy?

To put it simply: You don’t have to choose!

In fact, research suggests that combining medication with talk therapy can be beneficial for people experiencing anxiety and depression. 

While therapy can help people address the causes of their issues and learn tools to manage them in life (at work, in relationships and friendships, with family), psychiatry and medication can reduce symptoms that are experienced day to day. 

Think of it like this: If you injure your arm, a doctor might prescribe pain medication and give you stitches. At the same time, you can work with a physical therapist to strengthen the arm, allowing it to heal faster and then continue to stay strong and healthy for the long term.

Mood is a one-stop shop for mental health, where you can have access to psychiatry and medication management as well as talk therapy. With both paths, we connect you with real clinicians and therapists who focus on building a relationship with you and on your specific needs.

That’s too overwhelming right now. I want to pick one to start.

Roger that. Here’s some helpful questions to ask yourself when choosing between talk therapy and psychiatry:

Am I open to trying medication as part of my mental health journey? 

If you are, you could try psychiatry first. 

What other tools or practices have I tried to take care of my mental health?

Maybe you’ve tried journaling or talk therapy in the past, but it just hasn’t brought you the relief you’re looking for. If not, you can try psychiatry.

Are my symptoms interfering with my everyday life?

If not, maybe you’d like to start with talk therapy.

Whichever path you decide to start on, we at Mood applaud you. Taking that first step towards better mental health is hard, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you have questions or want to learn more about how psychiatry and talk therapy work at Mood, feel free to reach out to us at hello@moodhealth.com or visit our FAQ

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