It is easy to confuse one type of mental health professional with another, but it is important to educate yourself on mental health professionals so that you can make an informed decision when it comes to the care and treatment that you will receive.
Most mental health care professionals must be licensed and complete extensive education, but not all mental health professionals are the same. For example, some mental health professionals have the ability to prescribe prescription drugs that can be of aid to you while others cannot. You may even want to consider more than one mental health professional as some of the most effective treatment options contain both therapy and medication. Once you have decided on the type of mental health provider that you would like to work with, it is also important to consider other factors in order to choose the right one, such as specialty, training, methods and availability. To learn more about the various types of mental health professionals, review the information below.
Choosing the Mental Health Professional That is Right for You
You have made the decision to seek help from a mental health professional, but what type of mental health provider is right for you? This is an important choice that you must make as picking the right person can help you to overcome mental illness and any emotional troubles that you may be experiencing. There are a variety of types of mental health professionals, but after you have narrowed down the type of professional that you would like to see, it is important to consider:
- Their specialty.
- The training they have taken part in.
- Their methods.
- Schedule and availability.
- Convenience, including distance.
Remember, it is okay to ask potential health professionals questions in order to ensure that you find the right health professional to work with. By doing so, you can provide yourself with a greater chance of overcoming and managing your illness.
Psychologists are different from other types of mental health professionals as they are trained to evaluate your mental health during psychological evaluations, testing and clinical interviews. Not only can they make a diagnoses, but they can provide both individual and group therapy. Some psychologists have received training in specific forms of therapy such as dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Psychologists have obtained a doctoral degree, generally in clinical psychology.
Counselors, Clinicians and Therapists
All three of these mental health care professionals have obtained a minimum of a master’s degree in a mental health related field and have been trained to provide therapeutic techniques, as well as evaluate and diagnose a person’s mental health. These types of mental health care professionals will often provide half an hour to hour length sessions, depending on your treatment plan. It is strongly recommended that you work with one of these mental health professionals in order to learn new coping techniques, better ways of thinking and better ways of feeling. They are not, however, qualified to prescribe medication.
Clinical Social Workers
Clinical social workers are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health, but they cannot provide diagnoses on their own nor can they prescribe medications. Clinical social workers use therapeutic techniques that are based upon their specific level of training. They are required to obtain a master’s degree in social work and can have a number of licenses including Licensed Independent Social Workers (LICSW), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Academy of Certified Social Worker (ACSW).
A Psychiatrist is a licensed medical doctor that has completed additional education. No matter the state that you live in, Psychiatrists are required to have a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree along with a completion of residency training in psychiatry. Additionally, a variety of psychiatrists have completed additional training towards their specialty, such as child and adolescent mental health or substance use disorders. Psychiatrists can diagnose, prescribe medications and monitor medications. In some cases, psychiatrists may also offer to provide therapy. Often times, a psychiatrist may work alongside of a therapist in order to work with a fellow practitioner in order to get you the care and treatment that will be most beneficial to you.
Primary Care Physicians
While your primary care physician can prescribe medication that can be used to treat mental health issues, they do not specialize in the field of mental health. While it is recommended that you speak with your primary care doctor about new medications, especially if you are taking any other medication that may cause a drug interaction, it is still strongly recommended that you receive treatment from someone who specializes in mental health care.
Marriage and Family Therapists
While the required decree of a marriage and family therapist does vary from one state to the next, most states require these types of therapists to have a Master’s degree in their field. These therapists are a type of mental health professionals that specializes in marriage and family. You may have heard this type of counseling referred to as couple’s counseling, but family therapists can also provide therapy for other relationships within a family, such as a parent and child. Most family and marriage therapists recommend that each participant also engage in their own therapy alongside the adjoined therapy sessions.
Certified Peer Specialists
A certified peer specialist can often be beneficial to an individual who is striving to recover from a mental illness. These specialists are individuals who have experienced or currently live with a mental health condition, disorder or have faced a substance abuse or addiction in the past. Since they have had similar experiences, they can provide invaluable mentoring, guidance and unwavering support. Peer specialists help those living with mental illnesses by setting goals and helping an individual develop their strengths.
Pastoral counselors are members of the Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC), receiving training and qualifications that are equivalent to a doctorate in counseling. Like most mental health professionals, they are not qualified to prescribe any sort of medication. They are clergy members that have been trained to diagnose and provide counseling treatment.