Depression, Mental Health

Looking for a Mental Health Provider

What type of mental health provider do you need?

Mental health providers are professionals who diagnose mental health conditions and provide treatment. Most have either a master’s degree or more advanced education and training. Be sure that the mental health provider you choose is licensed to provide mental health services. Services offered depend on the provider’s training and specialty area.

Below you’ll find some of the most common types of mental health providers. Some may specialize in certain areas, such as depression, substance misuse or family therapy. They may work in different settings, such as private practice, hospitals, community agencies or other facilities.


A psychiatrist is a physician — doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) — who specializes in mental health. This type of doctor may further specialize in areas such as child and adolescent, geriatric, or addiction psychiatry. A psychiatrist can:

  • Diagnose and treat mental health disorders
  • Provide psychological counseling, also called psychotherapy
  • Prescribe medication


A psychologist is trained in psychology — a science that deals with thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Typically, a psychologist holds a doctoral degree (Ph.D., Psy.D., Ed.D.). A psychologist:

  • Can diagnose and treat a number of mental health disorders, providing psychological counseling, in one-on-one or group settings
  • Cannot prescribe medication unless he or she is licensed to do so
  • May work with another provider who can prescribe medication if needed

Psychiatric-mental health nurse

A psychiatric-mental health nurse (P.M.H.N.) is a registered nurse with training in mental health issues. A psychiatric-mental health advanced practice registered nurse (P.M.H.-A.P.R.N.) has at least a master’s degree in psychiatric-mental health nursing. Other types of advanced practice nurses able to provide mental health services include a clinical nurse specialist (C.N.S.), a certified nurse practitioner (C.N.P) or a doctorate of nursing practice (D.N.P.). Mental health nurses:

  • Vary in the services they can offer, depending on their education, level of training, experience and state law
  • Can assess, diagnose and treat mental illnesses, depending on their education, training and experience
  • Can — if state law allows — prescribe medication if they’re an advanced practice nurse

Physician assistant

A certified physician assistant (P.A.-C.) practices medicine under the supervision of a physician. Physician assistants can specialize in psychiatry. These physician assistants can:

  • Diagnose and treat mental health disorders
  • Provide psychological counseling, also called psychotherapy
  • Prescribe medication

Licensed clinical social worker

If you prefer a social worker, look for a licensed clinical social worker (L.C.S.W.) with training and experience specifically in mental health. A licensed clinical social worker must have a master’s degree in social work (M.S.W.), a Master of Science in social work (M.S.S.W.) or a doctorate in social work (D.S.W. or Ph.D.). These social workers:

  • Provide assessment, psychological counseling and a range of other services, depending on their licensing and training
  • Are not licensed to prescribe medication
  • May work with another provider who can prescribe medication if needed

Licensed professional counselor

Training required for a licensed professional counselor (L.P.C.) may vary by state, but most have at least a master’s degree with clinical experience. These counselors:

  • Provide diagnosis and psychological counseling (psychotherapy) for a range of concerns
  • Are not licensed to prescribe medication
  • May work with another provider who can prescribe medication if needed

Information from Mayo Clinic.

Tomorrow, I’ll give some information on important factors to be considered as well as how to find a Mental Health provider.

THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS:  I fought the idea of seeing anyone about my depression for such a long time.  For a couple of years, I just dealt with my problems through my family doctor.  We both finally realized that I needed some specialized help and she referred me to a Psychiatrist.  Man, was that a scary visit!  I had spent years and years and years of not talking to anyone about my problems other than my family physician and could not imagine actually seeing a Psychiatrist.  I had bought into the social stigma of thinking that only crazy people saw Psychiatrists.  (I know.  I know.  Even thinking that I was to see a Psychiatrist took me to that terrible word — crazy.  But, hey, at that point I did not understand mental illness and I thought just like everyone else — you had to be crazy to see a Psychiatrist.)   At the end of my first appointment, she suggested that I check myself into a Mental Health facility.  No way!  I remember telling her that I had  not even told my children I was coming to see her.  How in the world could I go home and tell them I was checking into a Mental Hospital?  No way!  I told her I would talk to them and would come back in a week to see her.  I didn’t make it back to her in a week and will talk about that in a later post. Thinking back on that first visit brings back so many disturbing memories.  I was scared to death, but had actually opened up for the first time to anyone about some of my specific experiences.  I had finally begun the journey of getting better.

TODAY’S FEELINGS BAROMETER:  Still dealing with some actual health problems right now and am having a problem getting into anything really personal.  I feel so badly that I don’t think I can feel like crap and deal with personal problems at the same time.  Hopefully, soon.

~~~ Betty


2 thoughts on “Looking for a Mental Health Provider”

  1. Thanks so much for writing this! I think these are all terms that people will hear being thrown about, but not know exactly what each of them actually does. So for instance, to be able read a detailed account of the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is really helpful and informative 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Betty, I see a psychiatrist on a regular basis. I love going to see mine. He’s helped me so much. It’s much better to recognize you have a problem that try to mask it.I think that is the greatest part of healing. I wished we both had confided in one another about our feelings years ago and could have helped one another. I love you Betty, and thank you for your blog. I look forward to reading it everyday. Love you, Leah

    Liked by 1 person

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