Will Psychiatric Care Affect My Job Prospects?

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Reader’s Question

I have had anger problems for many years. I am currently married and have two beautiful children. I do not want to hurt them and I definitely do not want to lose them or for them to be afraid of me.

I would like to seek professional help, perhaps with a psychiatrist. Would this affect my job prospects in the future if I ever apply for any type of job? Will I be labeled or stereotyped in a background check if I visited a psychiatrist? Could a visit to such a professional limit my opportunities or disadvantage me in comparison to my colleagues when applying for a job or promotion?

Psychologist’s Reply

Although we’ve come a long way from mental illness being viewed so negatively, we do still have a way to go. And so, it’s a good question to ask.

In many career environments it’s acknowledged that people sometimes need more help than they can get from family and friends, so not only is counseling and psychiatric help accepted but often it’s encouraged. In other professional environments healthcare situations are kept private, and no one even asks about the kind of care you seek. However, there are some careers, like law enforcement, airline pilots and others that are so high-risk that they need to know what is going on in people’s lives even when they are away from the job. Thus, the question of whether or not psychiatric care will limit your opportunities depends on the profession you have. As such, I would ask that question of other people in your field.

It’s also important to determine what type of care you need. At least in the United States, as far as those with “Doctor” in front of their name, there tends to be a big difference between what psychiatrists and psychologists do. Psychiatrists are doctors with a degree in medicine and they usually just deal with medication. A lot of the time, psychiatric patients go in for relatively brief ‘med checks’ during which the psychiatrist evaluates whether or not the medication is working. There is little to no counseling involved. In contrast, psychologists are doctors with a doctorate in a psychology-related field. Psychologists do more counseling and, based on your question, may offer more of the help that you need in order to appropriately deal with your anger.

I am hopeful that your career will not be limited if you seek out mental healthcare (of whatever kind) but even if it is, I think you need to weigh this information against the potential of a positive counseling outcome. If your anger problems are affecting your children, then mental healthcare may be worth it even if it negatively affects your career. Jobs tend to pale in comparison when talking about the emotional and physical health of our loved ones. Hopefully you won’t have to choose between psychiatric care and your job but if you do, make sure your choice isn’t one that you or others will later regret.

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