Types of Mental Health Professionals
Which mental health professional is right for you? There are many types of mental health professionals. Finding the right one for you may require some research. Below is a listing of types of mental health treatment professionals to help you understand the differences between the services they provide.
The following mental health professionals can provide psychological assessments and therapy; however, cannot generally prescribe medications (although some states will allow it):
Clinical psychologists are licensed professionals who are qualified to provide direct services to patients. Their work may include administering and interpreting cognitive and personality tests, diagnosing mental illness, creating treatment plans, and conducting psychotherapy. Psychologists are experts in psychometrics, or psychological measurement. Often they are called on to give a battery of tests to evaluate cognitive ability or mental status. In addition to formal tests, clinical psychologists may use interviews and behavioral observations. Key to effective practice is understanding how conditions manifest themselves across diverse populations.
School psychologists are uniquely qualified members of school teams that support students' ability to learn and teachers' ability to teach. They apply expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior, to help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. School psychologists partner with families, teachers, school administrators, and other professionals to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments that strengthen connections between home, school, and the community.
The following mental health professionals can provide counseling and with proper training, assessments; however, cannot prescribe medication:
Clinical Social Worker
Clinical social work is a specialty practice area of social work which focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness, emotional, and other behavioral disturbances. Individual, group and family therapy are common treatment modalities. Social workers who provide these services are required to be licensed or certified at the clinical level in their state of practice. Clinical social workers perform services in a variety of settings including private practice, hospitals, community mental health, primary care, and agencies.
Licensed Professional Counselor
Licensed professional counselors (LPCs) are master’s-degreed mental health service providers, trained to work with individuals, families, and groups in treating mental, behavioral, and emotional problems and disorders. LPCs make up a large percentage of the workforce employed in community mental health centers, agencies, and organizations, and are employed within and covered by managed care organizations and health plans. LPCs also work with active duty military personnel and their families, as well as veterans.
Mental Health Counselor
A counselor with a masters degree and several years of supervised clinical work experience. Mental health counseling is what people typically think of when they hear the word counseling, but counselors’ actual job duties may go well beyond what people imagine. Clinical counselors do indeed talk people through problems. In many cases, though, they diagnose as well as treat mental illness.
Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor
The first key difference between the Licensed Alcohol Drug Abuse Counselor (LADC) and the Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (CADC) exams is the required formal education level required for exam eligibility. For the LADC, an advanced degree may be required, while CADC certification applicants can submit for eligibility with a High School Diploma/GED and coursework that satisfies eligibility.
The second and more important difference is national reciprocity. While the CADC has achieved national certification and international accreditation, the LADC does not have interstate recognition due to a lack of a universal definition. The result is no LADC reciprocity between interstate providers, employers, and service recipients. In contrast, a counselor with a CADC is eligible to be employed and provide services within any state, and in most cases, meets a global standard of competency.
Marital and Family Therapist
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are mental health professionals trained in psychotherapy and family systems, and licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples and family systems.
Marriage and family therapists are a highly experienced group of practitioners, with an average of 13 years of clinical practice in the field of marriage and family therapy. They evaluate and treat mental and emotional disorders, other health and behavioral problems, and address a wide array of relationship issues within the context of the family system.
A Peer Specialist is a person with a mental health and/or co-occurring condition, who has been trained and certified to help others with these conditions, identify and achieve specific life and recovery goals. A Peer Specialist is a person who is actively engaged in his/her own recovery, and who volunteers or is hired to provide peer support services to others engaged in mental health treatment.
Therapist with an advance degree trained in specialized forms of therapy. Examples include art therapist, music therapist.
The following mental health professionals can prescribe medication; however, they may not provide therapy:
A psychiatrist is a physician (a medical doctor--either an MD or a DO) who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental, addictive, and emotional disorders. Psychiatrists are trained in the medical, psychological, and social components of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and utilize a broad range of treatment modalities, including diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, psychotherapy, and helping patients and their families cope with stress and crises. Psychiatrists increasingly work in integrated settings and often lead or participate on treatment teams and provide consultation to primary care physicians and other medical specialties.
The child and adolescent psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and the treatment of disorders of thinking, feeling and/or behavior affecting children, adolescents, and their families. A child and adolescent psychiatrist offers families the advantages of a medical education, the medical traditions of professional ethics, and medical responsibility for providing comprehensive care.
Psychiatric or Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatric mental health nursing is a specialty within nursing. Psychiatric mental health registered nurses work with individuals, families, groups, and communities, assessing their mental health needs. The PMH nurse develops a nursing diagnosis and plan of care, implements the nursing process, and evaluates it for effectiveness. Psychiatric Mental Health Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (PMH-APRNs) offer primary care services to the psychiatric-mental health population. PMH-APRNs assess, diagnose, and treat individuals and families with psychiatric disorders or the potential for such disorders using their full scope of therapeutic skills, including the prescription of medication and administration of psychotherapy. PMH-APRNs often own private practices and corporations as well as consult with groups, communities, legislators, and corporations.
You've Made the Call to the Mental Health Professional...Now What Do You Do?
Spend a few minutes talking with him or her on the phone, ask about their approach to working with patients, their philosophy, whether or not they have a specialty or concentration (some psychologists for instance specialize in family counseling, or child counseling, while others specialize in divorce or coping with the loss of a loved one.) If you feel comfortable talking to the counselor or doctor, the next step is to make an appointment.
On your first visit, the counselor or the doctor will want to get to know you and why you called him or her. The counselor will want to know-- what you think the problem is, about your life, what you do, where you live, with whom you live. It is also common to be asked about your family and friends. This information helps the professional to assess your situation and develop a plan for treatment. If you don’t feel comfortable with the professional after the first, or even several visits, talk about your feelings at your next meeting; don’t be afraid to contact another counselor. Feeling comfortable with the professional you choose is very important to the success of your treatment.
Collaborative Therapeutic Services (CTS) seeks to maximize clients’ options by offering a variety of services, hours, locations and service providers with diverse specializations. We offer evening & weekend appointments. Have questions? Contact Us Here or Call 813-951-7346. Locations in Tampa & Brandon.