Mental Health Practitioners: Who’s Who?
If you or a loved one needs mental health services, it can be a challenge to choose which practitioner would be the best choice. While your doctor can provide a referral, it helps to know the difference between the types of professionals who specialize in mental health:
Psychiatrist (MD or DO)Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specialized training to diagnosis and treat mental health conditions. Treatment from a psychiatrist typically involves being prescribed medication, such as a mood stabilizer to treat bipolar disorder , and undergoing psychotherapy. Some psychiatrists, though, only manage the medication-side of treatment and refer you to another practitioner for psychotherapy. A psychiatrist’s training includes a bachelors degree, medical school, and four years of residency training in the field of psychiatry. Many psychiatrists get additional training so that they can specialize in areas, such as working with children, teens, the elderly, or people with addiction problems.
Psychologist (PhD or PsyD)Psychologists are mental health professionals who work in a variety of settings including clinics, hospitals, private practice, schools, and universities. Psychologists have a doctorate degree in psychology, which they obtain after getting a bachelors degree. Depending on their training and specialization, psychologists may:
- Do psychological testing
- Assess and counsel people who have serious mental conditions, such as schizophrenia , depression , anxiety , alcoholism , drug addiction , and eating disorders
- Assess and counsel people who are experiencing life transitions, such as divorce, relationship problems, and academic problems