Choosing a Therapist

What’s the difference between Psychiatry and Psychology?

Psychiatrists, Clinical Psychologists and Psychotherapists have all been professionally trained to help people with psychological distress or mental illness.


  • A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has completed a speciality in Psychiatry, following their training as a doctor.
  • Whilst Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Therapists often work together in the treatment of patients, Psychologists and Therapists are not authorized to write prescriptions, but may refer a client to see a Psychiatrist for medication.
  • Psychiatrists will remain part of the support network for the patient whilst they are on medication or if they have been deemed high risk.
  • Your Psychiatrist will monitor your medication and change it if required, and will act as your advisory should you have any questions relating to the medication, such as side effects, dosage and if or when you should increase or decrease it.


  • It is normally a Psychologist who will carry out on-going therapy (although some Psychiatrists opt to do additional training in a particular therapy, such as systemic therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy.
  • Therapy may include treatment for a variety of mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression, so it is worthwhile checking with your Therapist to find out what area they specialise in.
  • Psychologists are also able to carry out specialised assessments, such as intellectual or cognitive functioning, which may include screening for a number of concerns, such as ADHD, ASD or dyslexia.

What is the difference between a Psychologist and a Coach?

There are some major differences between these two areas but overall the goal of both is to help the client function better in their lives.

Some of the differences include;

  • A Psychologist is specifically trained to work with mental health concerns, focusing on pathology and illness. Coaches tend to make healthy clients better.
  • Coaches tend to work to time-limited interventions, whereas therapy can be open-ended and on-going.
  • Psychologists often work to a prescribed method and follow a particular clinical model, whereas Coaching has few tangible rules and is more focused on empowering functional individuals.
  • Coaching is often for those individuals who want to make change in their life, rather than need the change. Clients of psychologists may constantly battle aspects of their life that need to change in order for them to function.
  • Coaching rarely asks about childhood or early life experiences, it focuses primarily on the future. Therapy looks into the past to see how those early events may have shaped the individual you are today. Therapy also strives to heal those unpleasant experiences and the beliefs you hold about them.

How do you know you are being treated by a good Psychologist or Psychotherapist?

When sourcing your Therapist, make sure they work for a reputable clinic. You may want to visit the clinic first and get a feel for the environment. Most Therapists will have a biography on the clinic website, so you could check this first to view their training and specialities. You should be concerned if they are working out of their home, as this is illegal in Dubai and you will not be protected if something goes wrong with the therapy. In addition, it may make it difficult for your insurance provider to cover the costs of treatment.

When meeting with your Therapist, you may want to ask them some questions. Useful (and completely acceptable) questions include:

  1. What level of training do you have?
  2. Where did you receive your training?
  3. How long have you been practicing?
  4. What is your area of speciality?
  5. Can I see your certificates?
  6. Can I see your license to practice in Dubai?
  7. What evidence is there for the type of therapy you are receiving?
  8. How do I know that this type of therapy is best for me?
  9. Can you recommend any books to help understand my condition?

It is crucial that your Therapist is trained appropriately to provide the treatment you specifically need. Not all Therapists are trained to treat all problems.

What training should you look for?

  • All Psychologists are trained to a minimum of Masters level.
  • Most Clinical Psychologists will have a PhD, PsyD or D. Clin Psy which means that they have a Doctorate in Psychology. This indicates that in addition to their training, they also completed a research thesis in their chosen area of speciality.
  • UK-trained Psychotherapists should have a Masters level degree at minimum, and many will have also completed a Post Graduate Diploma is a specialised area, such as cognitive behavioural psychotherapy or psychodynamic therapy.
  • All Therapists should be able to provide you with educational certificates to demonstrate their training.
  • Just because someone has ‘Therapist’ in their job title, this does not indicate appropriate professional training. Always make sure they are qualified to practice.
  • If your Therapist does not hold a licence to practice, this should come as a warning signal. If they hold a licence to practice in their home country, they may be going through the process of obtaining a licence to practice in Dubai. If this is the case, just make sure they are qualified.

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