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Understanding the Different Types of Mental Health Professionals

When facing mental health problems, it can be difficult to know who to ask for help. There are so many mental health professions and titles associated with mental healthcare that it’s hard to distinguish between them.

There are differences in the roles that the psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, and counselor play when it comes to healthcare, even though the each seem involved in providing psychotherapy and counseling services. Knowing the differences will help you determine which type of healthcare provider is ideal for you.

#1: The Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are actually medical doctors who pursue a specialization in psychiatry. One of the key differences between psychiatrists and other healthcare providers who perform psychotherapy and counseling service is the fact that they are trained doctors and are licensed to prescribe medication.

Psychiatrists see patients for both mild and severe mental illnesses and work in all types of healthcare settings ranging from hospitals to private clinics.

#2: The Psychologist

A psychologist is not a trained medical doctor. They have degrees in psychology they may range from a bachelor’s degree to a PhD. Psychologists provide counseling services to support patients’ mental health and well-being, but they may also conduct psychological tests and evaluations and research.

Frequently, psychologists work in tandem with psychiatrists. While psychologists can diagnose disorders in their clients, they require a psychiatrist to authorize any pharmaceutical treatment that may be required.

#3: The Therapist

Therapists can provide patients with support and guidance. A therapist may have any number of degrees including psychiatry, psychology, social work, or family counseling. The term “therapist” can include people who are also psychiatrists, psychologists, or counselors within its spectrum.

#4: The Counselor

A licensed counselor has a master’s degree in counseling. They work with individuals, groups, or even families. Because a counselor cannot prescribe medication, they often work in conjunction with psychiatrists or degreed therapists who can.

Counselors work with people to help them cope with their problems, which may include marital problems, addiction, or anger. Most states require counselors to be licensed in order to practice.

Which Mental Health Professional Is Right for You?

Some issues are straightforward. Someone suffering from a mental illness like schizophrenia or psychosis certainly needs to be overseen by a psychiatrist; although, they may also benefit at some point by working with a therapist too.

On the other hand, someone suffering marital problems or addiction may benefit from working with a counselor with special training in those particular areas. Each professional is degreed and has a specialty for helping patients overcome their issues. If you visit one but really require the help of another, a good healthcare provider will recommend you to a colleague who is best suited to provide you with the care you need.

Knowing the differences between these mental health professionals is helpful as you research your treatment options. It’s also good to know that each of these professionals has highly specialized degrees and training. If you aren’t sure about what type of therapist you need to see, your doctor may be able to make a recommendation.