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Which Mental Health Professional is Right for Me?

Finding just the right mental health professional is not an easy task and at times can be a bit confusing. Choosing a mental health professional is a personal decision that requires self-reflection and thoughtful consideration of the mental health professional’s style, personality, education and experience. The bottom line is you want a mental health professional who you can develop an effective therapeutic relationship because that is the building block for your growth.

To clarify who does what here is a description of the top three categories of mental health professionals:

Psychiatrist - A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (an M.D./D.O.) who specializes in mental health. Psychiatrists are qualified to assess and diagnose both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems. Their primary function is to provide and monitor medication. A psychiatrist is not trained in psychotherapy and their education differs greatly from that of a therapist.

Psychologist – A psychologist is someone who has earned their doctorate in clinical psychology or a related field. Psychologists assess, diagnose, and treat psychological problems with an emphases on research and testing. They are trained to perform all aspects of psychological testing as well as psychotherapy. Psychologists are not MD’s and cannot prescribe medication. If you are looking for psychological testing and/or psychotherapy a psychologist may be a good fit for you.

Therapist/psychotherapist/counselor – A mental health therapist is someone who as earned their masters in clinical psychology or a related field. Therapists provide psychotherapy, are trained to perform certain testing (although most do not). Therapists are not MD’s and cannot prescribe medication. LPC – Licensed Professional Counselor, LMSW – Licensed Masters Social Worker and LMFT – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist are some of the titles covered under the therapist/psychotherapist/counselor umbrella. If you are looking for individual, family, or couple’s therapy a therapist may be a good fit for you.

It is not uncommon to utilize a therapist and a psychiatrist. Medication alone can be seen a quick fix but it won’t teach coping skills and it won’t heal trauma. There is no such thing as “happy pill”. On the other hand, medication is sometimes needed so a person can fully benefit from psychotherapy.

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