Why are Therapists Called Shrinks?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to manage your mental health, you’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults in the United States experiences a diagnosable mental health condition each year, with depression and anxiety disorders among the most common types of mental illness.
Within the last year, adults throughout the United States reported a higher prevalence of anxiety and depression symptoms due to job loss, isolation, and stress surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, according to a KFF Health Tracking Poll from July 2020, many adults reported difficulty sleeping, increased challenges with substance use, and worsening chronic conditions within the last week. Respondents attributed this to stress over the coronavirus and issues surrounding the White House and former President Trump.
Whether you’re experiencing mild stress, relationship problems, or think you might have a diagnosable mental health condition, therapy can help you navigate your mental health and start feeling better. Therapists don’t just treat mental illnesses—they also provide mental health diagnoses and seek to prevent mental health issues.
Why are mental health professionals called shrinks?
“Shrink” is 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 The term is largely outdated and belongs to an era in which mental health treatment was a source of shame.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.
Different Types of Mental Health Professionals
Although the term “shrink” may be used to describe several types of mental health professionals, there are different types of providers trained in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating mental health problems. During your search for a therapist, you might encounter some of the following titles:
- Psychologist: Psychologists earn a doctoral degree in psychology. Counseling psychologists and clinical psychologists are trained to make mental health diagnoses and provide psychotherapy services.
- Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are medical doctors with special training in brain structure and the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. Psychiatrists typically prescribe medication and much less often counsel clients. Some psychiatrists receive additional training in a specialty field, such as children’s behavior.
- Social worker: Social workers earn a master’s degree in social work. They are trained to evaluate, diagnose, and treat mental illnesses. Some social workers also provide case management and advocacy services.
- Counselor: Mental health counselors and licensed professional counselors earn a master’s degree in psychology or a related field and undergo several years of clinical experience. Counselors are trained to evaluate, diagnose, and treat mental health conditions.
Common Types of Mental Health Conditions
Several different conditions are recognized as mental illnesses, each with its own unique diagnostic criteria under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Some common mental health conditions include:
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Substance use disorders
It’s essential to keep in mind that not all brain diseases are considered mental illnesses. Disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy affect the brain structure and neurons, but they are deemed neurological diseases rather than mental illnesses. As scientists continue to research mental illnesses with new methodologies, they learn that mental illness is associated with changes in brain structure, chemistry, and function.
Is therapy right for you?
Although many adults in the United States experience mental health symptoms, many face barriers to accessing mental health treatment. Socioeconomic status, stigmatized beliefs surrounding mental health in different ethnic groups, and a lack of knowledge about mental health care make it difficult for people to access the mental health care they need. Additionally, while clients in major cities like Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and New York might have an easier time finding a provider, many clients in rural areas have a hard time finding a psychotherapist nearby.
Fortunately, within the last year, more and more therapists have started offering online therapy services, providing a convenient, discreet, and affordable alternative to traditional in-person therapy sessions. With online therapy, it’s possible to access mental health care from the comfort of your own home. All you need is a reliable Internet connection.
While online therapy isn’t for everyone, research shows that it’s effective as in-person therapy in treating a wide variety of conditions. Here are signs you could benefit from online therapy.
- You want to improve your relationships with friends, family members, and colleagues.
- You’re feeling frustrated, confused, or overwhelmed.
- You’re having a hard time moving on or feel stuck at a crossroads.
- You’re navigating a challenging situation or stage of life.
- You’re overreacting to situations that feel “small” or have trouble regulating your emotions.
Finding the Right Therapist
At the Therapy Group of NYC, we know that finding the right mental health provider can feel intimidating—that’s why we provide personalized guidance every step of the way with access to confidential online therapy and compassionate therapists.
Whether you’re starting therapy for the first time or transitioning to online therapy, one of our experienced mental health professionals will help you navigate your mental health and find the emotional support you need to live a more fulfilling life.