Types of Mental Health Providers
Different types of mental health provider provide different services. Understanding the differences will help you to find a provider that is best able to assist you.
PSYCHIATRISTS are medical doctors. They attend four years of medical school and then at least four years more of training (“residency”) to learn about mental health. They specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. They can prescribe medications to treat mental health problems, but may also offer psychotherapy or group therapy.
CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGISTS are specialists in mental health problems and in their assessment and treatment. They study psychology for four to six years, and then complete at least one more year of clinical and/or research training (“internship”). They offer different types of treatments, including psychotherapy, group therapy, or family therapy. They do not prescribe medications.
LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELORS are trained professionals, who take classes and complete clinical training in mental health problems. They often focus on educational and strength-based rather than medical approaches to dealing with problems. They offer psychotherapy, and individual, family, and group approaches. They do not prescribe medications.
LICENSED INDEPENDENT CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKERS (LCSW) have a Master’s degree in social work. They are trained through supervised clinical work experience, and have passed national- or state-certified licensing exams. They offer psychotherapy, and individual, family, and group approaches. They do not prescribe medications.
PSYCHIATRIC ADVANCED REGISTERED NURSE PRACTITIONERS (APRN) have education and training in nursing, and have completed an approved Master’s or Doctoral advanced nursing education program, which includes clinical training. They can prescribe medications to treat mental health problems, and may offer other types of treatment.
If you are unsure which type of provider would be most useful to you, you can discuss this with your primary care doctor, or contact different providers and briefly tell them the types of problems you are experiencing.