IS A SHRINK A THERAPIST? — You know that therapy is very important for your mental well-being. But, hold on, why are counselors called shrinks? Where did that come from?

This article will make you understand the origin and significance of the word shrink. This will also guide you on how you can properly address your healthcare provider.

Why Is a Mental Health Professional Called a Shrink?

Medical health professionals like psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists are called shrinks. Why are they called as such?

It was said, that this slang term springs from a completely different treatment of the human head. The Amazonian Jivaro people are the only group known to shrink heads in headhunting. They use a distinctive headhunting practice in shrinking the heads of their captives.

The Jivaro people have been in the headlines for several decades. They were featured in a major feature-length documentary entitled “Jungle Headhunter”. This was based on the research of a prominent explorer in 1949.

This slang term was first used in 1950 by Time Magazine. The article explained that whoever predicted the phenomenal success of “Hopalong Cassidy” would have been sent to a headshrinker or a psychiatrist.

In a New York Times article on television-industry jargon, the slang term’s recent coinage was considered a Hollywood slang for a psychiatrist. Shrink is the shortened term for head shrinkage.

In 1955, this Hollywood slang became widely used because of the movie, “Rebel Without a Cause”. It was in this movie that the characters were talking about going to a headshrinker.

It was only in 1966 that the term shrink made its first known reference to a psychotherapist. Thomas Pynchon, a novelist described the character of Dr. Hilarious as a shrink in “The Crying of Lot 49.”


There are discussions as to the significance of calling mental health professionals shrinks. The metaphoric term headshrinker possibly reflects the fear, mystery, and aggression associated with the profession.

The word shrink may refer to the shrinking of a patient’s narcissistic view. There are some mental health professionals who accept this term with much humor. There are still others who view this term as outdated terminology which may not view humans as complex individuals.

Mental health professionals were called shrinks because mental health treatment was considered shameful. The stigma for mental health care still exists today. However, treatment for mental health is now widely accepted and encouraged.

Types of Mental Health Professionals

The slang term shrink was used to collectively call mental health professionals. These professionals are trained to evaluate, diagnose, and treat mental disorders. It is important that you understand the differences between these medical professionals. This can help you choose the right one for you.


Psychologists have a degree in psychology. They study human behavior and mental processes. They are also concerned about human interaction. Psychologists can help patients with stressful life events. 

They can also help battle addictions, and manage mental health disorders. They are not medical doctors and cannot prescribe medications. Clinical psychologists can work in a hospital and can diagnose mental health issues. They can also give psychotherapy services.


They are medical doctors who are specially trained in the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of emotional, mental, behavioral, and developmental issues. Psychiatrists can diagnose and treat the mental and physical effects of disorders. They also focus on chemical imbalances in the brain. As a medical doctor, a psychiatrist can prescribe medication.


Psychotherapists use talk therapy in dealing with psychological problems. They can be a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

Social Worker

Social workers are trained in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating mental illnesses. They can also provide case management and advocacy services.


Both mental health counselors and licensed professional counselors have master’s degrees in psychology. They undergo years of clinical experience.

Image from Flickr by Penn State

Common Mental Health Conditions

There are mental health conditions that are recognized as mental disorders. These conditions are uniquely categorized under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Depression
  • Easting disorders
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance use disorders

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) expressed that the Institution will no longer fund research based on DSM categories. NIMH is developing a new framework that could replace DSM diagnoses. This incorporates behavioral and neuroscience evidence. This new framework might eventually be incorporated into the revised DSM guidelines.

Is Therapy Effective?

There are a number of Americans who don’t have access to mental health care. Such barriers to treatment are due to socioeconomic status, stigma, and lack of knowledge about mental health.

Also, the limited access in finding a mental health provider is another barrier. To address this concern, there are more therapists who are offering professional online therapy services. Online therapy is more convenient, discreet, and affordable than in-person therapy. Research has shown that the effectiveness of online therapy is the same as that of in-person therapy.

Looking for the Right Therapist Online

Looking for the right therapist online can be difficult. There are so many online therapy providers and choosing the best one for you can be intimidating.

You don’t have to look far for Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) offers the best online therapy services in the area. KCC knows how important it is that you get treated by the right professional.

The right therapist can prepare an individualized treatment plan that is fit for your condition. The therapists of KCC provide confidential and personalized guidance all throughout your treatment.


Whatever you call them, these mental health professionals are the best people who can help you with your problem. Call them as to their preference. After all, they are professionals who have gone through years of study and experience.

Some of these professionals may find humor in being called shrinks. But, they will never put humor when talking about your treatment and your mental health.

The whole team of KCC is here to fully commit themselves to the service of their patients. You won’t regret giving KCC your full trust. KCC will do everything to help you reach your goal of having healthy mental well-being.

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