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See a Therapist Before a Psychiatrist: Nine Reasons Why

See a Therapist Before a Psychiatrist: Nine Reasons Why


See a Therapist Before a Psychiatrist: Nine Reasons Why


Feeling sad, anxious, grief-stricken, or hopeless over family, marital, or work issues can be devastating. Losing your functionality to an emotional condition can be incapacitating. Any of these can put your life on hold until you resolve the issues bothering you or receive treatment to ease your symptoms.

Making the decision to seek out treatment isn’t easy, and you deserve a pat on the back for taking the first step toward a better life. Now, it is time for the next step: deciding whom to see first—a therapist or a psychiatrist.

Who is the logical first choice to see? A psychiatrist, who is a doctor and can prescribe psychotropic medicines to aid treatment, or a therapist, who can provide treatment options without the use of psychotropic drugs?


The two options may sound simple, but getting to the core of why you would choose one over the other is both critical and necessary. The practical choice is a therapist, and here are nine reasons why:

  1. Treatment without medications is preferable. The Department of Health and Human Services defines a medication as a “substance that is taken into or placed on the body … to cure a disease, condition or infection, to treat a medical condition … to relieve symptoms … prevent diseases.” Medications can cause adverse reactions or side effects, and can make your treatment more costly. Thus, using them is not advisable unless medically necessary. If emotional wellness is attainable using therapy only, why take medications?
  1. Seeing a psychiatrist is more expensive. Psychiatrists are in demand because there are few of them and rising numbers of people seeking their help. Accordingly, their fees are high. Therapists generally charge $100 for the first session, which lasts for approximately one hour, and less for subsequent sessions. In contrast, psychiatrists can charge as much as $250 for the first session, which lasts for 45 to 50 minutes, and up to $85 for follow-up sessions lasting 5 to 15 minutes.
  1. They both use the same diagnostic system. This means that therapists are just as qualified to assess your symptoms as psychiatrists. They can perform similar systematic evaluations or screenings, allowing them to accurately diagnose your condition and determine the appropriate interventions to treat you.
  1. Seeing a therapist can carry less stigma. One of the obstacles that may keep you from seeking treatment is social stigma. While this generation has been educated about emotional health and most understand that seeking treatment for emotional health is good, there are still people who look at it with disdain. Thus, you may feel embarrassed about seeing a psychiatrist, even though it is counterproductive. Seeing a therapist can be less embarrassing for many because it is a common method of assistance.
  1. Therapists can spend more time with you. The shortage of psychiatrists makes it impossible for these professionals to spend as much time with you as they want or as much as you need or deserve. Given the limited time, while they are capable of providing therapy, they are likely to focus on medication and its management.
  1. A referral from a therapist is appreciated and preferred by psychiatrists. Psychiatrists appreciate the role that therapists play in their practice. When a client/patient comes with a referral from a therapist, it means that the initial work has been done on them, such as the assessment of their symptoms and their medical/family background. Thus, seeing a therapist first can make the work of a busy psychiatrist lighter, allowing them to focus more on how you or any patient can be helped with medication.
  1. Psychiatrists are your “safety net” if your emotional condition is severe. Medication is the psychiatrist’s principal method of treating emotional conditions. When you need help to resolve concerns about life issues such as parenting, marriage, relationships, or your career, you don’t need medication to feel better. What you need is therapy to help you control your moods, manage your responses, and think and feel well. Seeing a psychiatrist is generally reserved for more serious conditions. It can be done upon the advice of your therapist, if and when needed, to aid therapy.
  1. Therapists can help you make informed decisions critical to your emotional well-being and treatment. Though you or your immediate relatives are responsible for choosing your treatment options, making an informed decision is critical. It can be difficult to make decisions when you don’t understand your options and what comes with each. As a participant in the decision making, you or your loved one can become more motivated to cooperate with the therapist, increasing the chance of therapy success.
  1. Your therapist can help you find a trustworthy psychiatrist, if you need one. If your case requires the use of psychotropic medication, your therapist can help you find a psychiatrist who is respected in the field. As they work in the same profession, they are likely to know each other, and you stand to benefit from your therapist’s recommendation. If you are suffering from an emotional condition with recurrent and intense symptoms, you can be thankful that both types of professionals are there to help you.


It is practical to see a therapist first, based on these nine points. Know, however, that seeing a therapist first does not deprive you of the opportunity to see a psychiatrist later, if it is necessary for your treatment. In fact, if you seek help from Carolina Counseling Services — Pinehurst, NC, a caring independent therapist contracted with CCS will work with you to resolve your issues and achieve your emotional wellness goals, even if it means referring you to a psychiatrist to augment your therapy with medication.

When you call Carolina Counseling Services — Pinehurst, you are bound to enjoy the benefits of your smart decision—seeing a therapist first.  


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Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

Counties: Moore county, NC, Lee County, Hoke County, Chatham County

Areas: Pinehurst NC, West End NC, Taylortown NC, Seven Lakes NC, Eagle Springs NC, Jackson Springs NC, Foxfire NC, Candor NC, Norman NC, Ellerbe NC, Rockingham NC

Zip Codes: 27281, 27376, 28315, 28347, 28350, 28373, 28374, 28387, 28388, 28394

Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
Insurance: BCBSTricare Prime/Select, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

Robin Caswell, MSW, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 5+), Individuals, Adults, Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Loss, ADHD, ODD, Trauma/PTSD, LGBTQ, Self-Harm, Military Family Life, Mood Disorders, OCD, Phobias
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

Counseling Information

How Do I Set Up my FIRST Appointment?

  • Call: 910-420-3600 (Fastest way to schedule)
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Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

45 Dowd Circle Suite 5
PinehurstNC 28374

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Fayetteville, NC 28311