Which Mental Health Professional Should You Use?

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Credit to flickr.com user Jonas Bengtsson. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Mental health professionals come in all types. When making the decision as to which doctor to start a treatment plan with, keep in mind that you can try several–as many as you can afford, that is. Your primary care physician can refer you to one or many of these mental health professionals.

 

Psychiatrist

A doctor trained in the medical field of psychiatry, including the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental and emotional illnesses. The most important job of a psychiatrist is to prescribe medication for you. Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists are medical doctors. You will likely be referred to a psychiatrist at least once in your mental healthcare journey.

Child/Adolescent Psychiatrist

Just like it says on the tin, a child/adolescent psychiatrist is a medical doctor specifically trained to treat mental illnesses or behavioral problems in children. These professionals can and will prescribe medication.

Psychologist

A psychologist is a mental health professional with a doctoral degree in psychology who can diagnose and treat mental illnesses with courses of therapy. Unlike psychiatrists, psychologists do not prescribe medication. There are two forms of psychology: applied psychology, which includes “practitioners,” and research-oriented psychology, which includes “scientists.” Psychologists are trained as researchers and practitioners.

Clinical Social Worker

A clinical social worker is a counselor with a master’s degree in social work who provides individual and group counseling. The social workers have three years or more of supervised experience. They do not prescribe medication.

Licensed Professional Counselor

A licensed professional counselor (LPC) is a counselor with a master’s degree in psychology and several years of supervised experience who offers individual and group counseling. In the U.S., the title varies by state, but the most common next to LPC is licensed mental health counselor (LMHC). The counselors do not prescribe medication.

Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor

A certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor is a mental health professional with specific training in substance abuse treatment. The counselor can provide individual and group counseling. The counselor does not prescribe medication.

Marital and Family Therapist

Marital and family therapists are professionals specializing in relationships between families, or couples. The therapists emphasize familial relationships as important to consider for your mental health. The counselors have master’s degrees in psychology and related fields, and do not prescribe medication.

Several types of mental health professionals are available to help you. These are just a few of them. A lot of the counselors seem interchangeable, but they all have different approaches, tailored to you.

Author: Cassandra Stout

Freelance writer Cassandra Stout blogs weekly at the award-winning Bipolar Parent, a comprehensive resource for parents with mental illnesses. She also blogs monthly at the International Bipolar Foundation website (IPBF.org). Her work has been published in the anthology, How the Light Gets In. Cassandra holds degrees from the University of Arizona in Creative Writing and Journalism. She has been a judge for the Pacific Northwest Writers' Association literary contest for nine years, where her memoir, Committed, recently placed as a finalist. She balances her literary work with raising her children, feeding her cat, and managing her bipolar disorder.

13 thoughts on “Which Mental Health Professional Should You Use?”

    1. I’m sorry to hear that! I hope that you can find a mental health professional who will listen to you and your daughter, as your support. Good luck! Thanks for stopping by the blog, reading, and leaving a comment!

  1. Hi Cassandra! I’m just finding your blog and enjoying the posts. As a mom too, I appreciate how you’re sharing your story and inspiring others as well. You’re right, seeking the right help is essential to the healing process and managing any challenge. It’s taken me over 20 years to get on the right track and I couldn’t be happier. Thanks again for sharing !

    1. Thank you for such an encouraging and supportive comment! I really appreciate that you’ve been reading and enjoying the blog. I’m so glad to hear that you’re on the right track! Congratulations! That’s difficult to do!

  2. My psychiatrist specializes in addiction – I had no idea that specialty even existed! While I see him for non-addiction-related issues, it has been helpful to get his take on addiction since my father had bipolar and was an alcoholic.

    Another clear, concise, and comprehensive post, Cass!

    I’m creating a new blog award called “The Three C’s Award” just for you and only you! 👍

  3. Why, thank you, Dyane! I appreciate that you think I deserve an award. That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I’m glad you have a psychiatrist that is well rounded. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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