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5 Types Of Mental Health Professionals - Who Are They, And What Do They Do?

6 min read
Published on 17 January, 2023

Mental health is a broad concept, and it can often get confusing for most people to know the difference between a psychiatrist and, say, a psychologist. Let alone know all the different types of health professionals.

How often have you mistaken a psychiatrist for a psychologist? Or how often have you bothered to dig more for a deeper understanding of the same? The most common answer to that would be no. But that's alright since mental health is still fighting its place in the common health ground, and there's much to break away from the stigma.

If you possess little knowledge about a mental health service provider, then it'd be a challenge for you to find the right one. Before seeking help, knowing which provider will best cater to your need is important. Like every other profession in the medical field, there are different types of professions specializing in mental health conditions.

This article will explore and discuss the 5 different types of mental health professionals that exist and what they do.

What Are The Different Types Of Mental Health Professionals?

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Getting help for mental, emotional, spiritual, or relationship issues can be difficult. And finding the right mental health professional can help you take control of any issue in your life.

Mental health is as important as your physical health and knowing which mental health service provider to seek is one of the most important parts of the journey.

Like other medical doctors, there are different types of mental health professionals to help you with your mental health issues. There is a wide range of professionals in the field of mental health who diagnose and treat mental illness.

Most mental health professionals have a master's degree and a license to practice providing services for specific mental health conditions. Each of their licenses and services depends on their training, specialization, and state law.

The following list consists of five common types of mental health professionals. Each provides a unique treatment plan and specializes in a specific area of mental health.

5 Types Of Mental Health Professionals

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1. Psychiatrists

Psychologists and psychiatrists are not the same, although people often confuse them. Doctors of medicine (MD) and doctors of osteopathic medicine (OD) who specialize in mental health are psychiatrists.

Psychiatrists specialize in treating and diagnosing mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders. Treatment involves psychiatric medicines, lab tests, and even physical exams. Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists specialize in fields like child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatrics and addictions, and forensic psychiatry.

Here is a list of things that a psychiatrist can or cannot do -

  • They can diagnose and treat mental health disorders.

  • They can prescribe medicines.

  • They can provide counseling called psychotherapy.

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2. Psychologists

When you think of a psychologist, you probably picture someone lying on a couch and talking to a doctor about their feelings. In reality, psychologists do more than just ask you about your feelings.

A psychologist is a person who is trained in psychology, i.e., the science of behavior, thoughts, and feelings. Most psychologists hold a doctoral degree, such as Ph.D. They are trained to cure a wide range of mental health issues and not just confined to the mainstream ones.

A psychologist can work in a private office, hospital, or even an institution like a school. And here are a few of the things that a psychologist can or not do -

  • They can diagnose and treat several mental health issues and disorders.

  • They provide counseling both in one-on-one and group settings.

  • They cannot prescribe medicines unless they are licensed.

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3. Psychiatric Nursing

A psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioner is a registered nurse trained to deal with mental health problems. They specialize in mental health disorders and are known for their therapeutic relationship with people seeking help.

A psychiatric nurse must have a master's degree in psychiatric mental health nursing. They perform psychological therapy and administer psychiatric medication.

In many cases, they treat challenging behavior related to mental health conditions under medical supervision.

Here is a list of things that a psychiatric nurse can or cannot do -

  • They can offer services depending on their education, training level, and state law.

  • They can even prescribe medicines if the law allows or they have a license for the same.

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4. Licensed Professional Counselor

Licensed professional counselors are mental health counselors who provide counseling as a treatment to those dealing with any mental health condition. Since it is a broad term, it is important to know about a counselor's education, experience, and the kind of service they provide.

A counselor has a master's degree with clinical experience

A licensed professional counselor can specialize in fields like -

  • Job stress

  • Addiction

  • Licensed marriage and family therapists

  • Marriage family therapy

  • General psychology counseling

A licensed professional counselor can do the following -

  • They can provide diagnosis and counseling for a range of concerns.

  • They are not licensed to prescribe medication.

  • They may work with another provider who can prescribe medication if needed.

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5. Licensed Clinical Social Worker

People turn to social workers for help when they have difficulties coping with life's issues. These can be both professional and personal issues that they assist people with. Clinical social workers are trained and experienced in dealing with mental health issues. They must have a master's degree in social work or a doctorate in social work, like Ph.d.

A licensed social worker can work in government or private institutions, including offices, hospitals, and NGOs. In addition to helping with housing problems, domestic violence, and unemployment, they can also assist with other problems as well.

Here is a list of things that a social worker can or cannot do -

  • They can provide assessment, diagnosis, and counseling depending on their level of training and experience.

  • They are not licensed to prescribe medications.

  • They can, however, work with other medical doctors who prescribe medicine if required.

Suggested Read : How Can Managers Support Mental Health in the Workplace

How Can You Find A Mental Health Service Provider?

When it comes to finding the right mental health service provider, it can become a challenging task for you if you are a novice or completely unaware of it. Knowing your mental health and who to seek is not enough if you cannot get the help you need.

So, if you want to find a mental health service provider, here are a few things you should consider -

  • You can ask your health insurance company for a list of service providers. Most companies have a list of providers they cover easily available on the internet.

  • You ask your reliable friends or family members.

  • You can check if your company's employee assistance programs
    offer any mental health services to their employees.

  • You can contact a national or local mental health organization for assistance.

  • You can also search the internet for professional associations with directories of mental health providers, such as the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association.

Summing It Up

Mental health is a broad and complex issue requiring different support and treatment types. Different types of professionals provide mental health services. To understand and get better from mental health conditions, you can seek help from these mental health professionals.

So, when choosing a mental health professional, all you have to do is consider the type of treatment you would like to receive as per your condition.

This article is written by Neha Yasmin who is a content marketer at Vantage Circle. A selenophile with a penchant for discovering great meals and drinks. Is a self-proclaimed binge racer with a knack for cooking in her spare time. For queries, reach out to editor@vantagecircle.com

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