When starting therapy for the first time, people often ask how long it will take or how many sessions they will need. Because feelings and relationships are highly individualized and complex, there is no way to know for certain how to answer such questions. However, a therapist should be able to give you some idea of how treatment for your presenting problem usually works. Once you begin counseling, you and your therapist will periodically talk together about how it’s going so that you’ll understand the time frame and about how many more sessions you will probably need.
A psychologist specializes in treating mental illness, relationship issues, and other psychological problems through psychotherapy. A psychologist does not prescribe medication, but may refer someone to a psychiatrist if they believe that medication is important for successful treatment. Psychologists in private practice usually have a doctorate in psychology, and they have spent years studying how therapy helps people resolve emotional and relationship problems.
A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in treating mental health diagnoses with medications. Some psychiatrists are also trained to offer psychotherapy, while most psychiatrists focus on medication evaluation and management but do not conduct talk therapy.
Social work programs vary widely, so it’s hard to know what expertise a social worker has without asking them. In general, social workers do not have the extensive training in mental illness and mood disorders that psychologists have, but some social workers have completed graduate training in psychotherapy and have become proficient as psychotherapists.