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Would psychology be more beneficial than social work or vice versa?

I've finally come to the conclusion that I want to either be a psychiatrist or a social worker but I can't decide which one all I know is that I want to help people and create my own helping center for the homeless, troubling people, addicts, etc and I just don't know what'll be more beneficial.

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Priya’s Answer

Hi Briana,
There are actually way more helping professions than just the two! You can be a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a counselor/therapist, or a social worker (and there are probably more!) If you want to provide therapy for clients, than being a psychologist, counselor/therapist, or master-level social worker may be what you want to look at, as psychiatry will focus more on prescribing medication at this time (from what I know!) If that is what you want, then that is the direction for you! These also vary in the type of degree you would be pursuing--psychiatry is a medical degree, psychology a phd, counseling and therapy (as well as a social worker who can provide therapy) a master level degree, or a bachelor degree if you want to do social work primarily. These fields also differ in how they look at the client: psychiatry and psychology are primarily medical model (seeing a disorder from a disease to treat standpoint,) therapy from a wellness model (using clients strengths to facilitate coping and decrease symptoms,) and I believe social work focuses on changing the client's environment to suit them as opposed to the others that focus on changes the client can make internally. I believe any of these fields can help you open your own practice (though I am unsure if a bachelor degree in social work alone will allow for your own practice,) so it may come down to how you want to help and what direction sounds more appealing to you. A great way to find out more is to meet with a career counselor, find organizations you admire and ask them, ask professors, or continue researching and asking different professionals. I hope this was not too confusing and I hope you get a variety of answers from different helping professionals here! Let me know if you have questions. This is my general knowledge as I am not an expert, and I know my field (counseling) better than the others so my viewpoint may be lacking in info about the others or may be biased. Good luck! Also what type of student are you (high school, college, etc?)
Thank you comment icon Thank you your advice was definitely helpful because I didn't even know the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist also I'm a high school student currently going into my sophomore year:). Briana
Thank you comment icon Hey Briana, that makes sense--I did not know the difference between many of these careers until the middle of college! You have a great leg-up right now by looking into careers now and a lot of time to learn more about these careers and try different classes in college related (or unrelated) to them to know what you like! I did not pick my particular career path as a counselor until almost the end of my undergraduate college career! I knew I wanted to do mental health by the middle and narrowed it down later. You have plenty of time to explore and you will have great resources in college to learn more--my professors had a lot of great information and knowledge that helped me be here today :) Good luck! Priya Mathew
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Franziska’s Answer

Hi Briana,

I am definitely aligned with the previous responses. But what I would like to clarify once more is that majoring in psychology would rather take you to the position of a therapist who conducts psychotherapy as a kind of medical treatment. So, the most common career path in this field would be working with people suffering from specific mental diseases. Of course there are numerous further options. I would never say that it's the wrong way to study psychology when aiming to help homeless people etc. in an own helping center. But if your goal really is to run the center as the founder/leader, I would rather see this in the field of social work combined with some nonprofit management. From my point of view, the question you need to clarify is whether you want to be the person who owns and manages such a kind of help center and who supports people by offering them a place to meet and exchange, or if you rather prefer to be the (medical) therapist for some single people with a real psychological disease. That's a big difference because obviously, being homeless, for example, doesn't necessarily mean that you suffer from a mental disease. So, do you see yourself in the position to conduct medical treatments or would you prefer managing groups/single cases of people who are facing serious challenges, but not necessarily mental diseases, in their lives?
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Cristina’s Answer

Hello Briana,
Congratulation for choosing such a wonderful path. To be a social worker sounds more like what you want to do, based on your description of wanting to have a helping center. I think also the study time between being a psychiatrist and a social worker is different. As other people said, you might want to be a psychologist/coach/therapist so the study path would be different and you would have more options. You might be talented at raising money for such a center, without any specific studies, and you can hire social workers/psychologists/etc. You need to figure out if you want to do this work for yourself or create a space/center where other people can do it and you just run the place and make sure it has all the funding it needs. Good luck!
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Kim’s Answer

Briana,

I want to address the point that you want to start your own center. To that end, whatever you major in, I'd recommend a minor in something like Nonprofit management. You will need to learn how to get grants, government contracts, hire staff, comply with regulations, do record keeping, handle audits, etc.

You could always go back to school later for this. It sort of depends on how soon you plan to start your own center. At the very least, take a course or two in this field.

Best of luck!
Kim
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