(MayoClinic.com) If you've never seen a mental health provider before, you may not know how to find one who suits your specific needs. Here are some things to keep in mind as you search for a mental health provider.
Mental health providers are licensed professionals who diagnose mental health conditions and provide treatment. Most have either a master's degree or more advanced education and training. Mental health providers must meet certain licensing requirements before they can offer mental health services. The services a mental health provider offers depend on training and specialty area.
Here are some of the most common types of mental health providers and the services they provide:
|Type of mental health provider||Prescribes medication?||Provides psychological counseling?||What they do|
|Primary care provider (M.D., D.O., N.P., P.A.)||Yes.||In most cases, general advice and support.||Primary care providers can diagnose mental illness and prescribe medications. Most primary care doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants have limited expertise in treating complex mental health problems.|
|Licensed professional counselor (LPC)||No.||Yes.||Licensed counselors provide psychological counseling (psychotherapy) for a range of concerns. They usually have at least a master's degree. Counselors may specialize in certain areas, such as career counseling, marriage issues or substance abuse. They work in private practice, community agencies, hospitals, employee assistance programs and in other settings.|
|Psychiatric nurse (R.N., A.P.R.N)||Some do.||Yes.||Psychiatric nurses are registered nurses who have training in mental health. Their level of training and experience determines what services they can offer. Advanced practice registered nurses have at least a master's degree in psychiatric-mental health nursing. In general, they can diagnose and treat mental illnesses, and in some states advanced practice nurses can prescribe medications.|
|Psychiatrist (M.D., D.O.)||Yes.||Yes.||Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health. Some psychiatrists further specialize in areas such as child and adolescent, geriatric or addiction psychiatry.|
|Psychologist (Ph.D., PsyD., Ed.D.)||Generally not.||Yes.||Psychologists are trained specialists in psychology — a science that deals with thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Like licensed counselors, psychologists provide psychotherapy in one-on-one or group settings. Most psychologists hold a doctoral and undergo postgraduate training.|
|Clinical social worker (M.A., M.S., M.S.W., M.S.S.W., D.S.W., PhD)||No.||Yes.||Social work is a broad profession. In general, social workers help people overcome social and health problems by providing a range of services. Most social workers have a masters or more advanced degree. Social workers who provide mental health services have specialized training.|
Consider these factors when choosing among the various types of mental health providers:
Here's where to start:
Here are some things to keep in mind when considering a mental health provider:
Don't hesitate to ask lots of questions. Finding the right match is crucial to establishing a good relationship and getting the most out of your counseling sessions or appointments.
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