3. There are many types of mental health professionals. Who should I see?
Jennifer: Mental health providers vary by background training and provide different functions according to the type of degree and license they have.
A psychiatrist (a practitioner with a medical degree in psychiatry, MD or DO) has the ability to prescribe medication and can continue to provide medication management for the treatment of mental health conditions. Psychiatrists may also provide mental health counseling. Though medication may be needed for the treatment of certain symptoms or conditions, it is not used to treat all mental health issues.
A psychologist (a practitioner with a PhD or a PsyD degree) can perform psychological testing, which evaluates a person’s behavior, personality, and capabilities in the effort to determine the need and plan for treatment. Psychologists may also provide mental health counseling or psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is the study of the unconscious mind.
A social worker (a practitioner with an MSW, and an LMSW or LCSW) can conduct a psychosocial assessment to assess a person’s emotional and mental health. This type of evaluation assesses the person’s role within their family and community, and draws from a person’s background, social relationships with others, and influence from one’s environment. Social workers also provide mental health counseling.
Editor’s Note: Some types of people who may claim to offer mental health support, such as life coaches, may not have any licensure or have completed any verified curriculum. While these people may offer some benefit, they are not subject to the rules, standards of care, and liabilities of licensed professionals. For these reasons, working with licensed professionals is considerably safer. You wouldn’t turn to a person without the appropriate credentials to perform surgery — is it worth the risk with your mental health?