What is the difference between all the Mental Health Providers
I am answering a question I have been hearing a lot:
How do you know if you need a therapist or a psychologist or psychiatrist? And what’s the difference?
I get that it can be overwhelming. There are a lot of different types of mental health professionals, but not that much difference in what they can do.
Starting with a psychologist: This is someone who has earned a PhD or PsychD, and would be called ‘doctor’, but is not a medical doctor.
There are also Licensed Professional Counselor or Clinical Counselor (LPC or LCC), which is my designation. There also associates, So LPCA, this person just graduated and are still being supervised, (think a medical doctor doing their residency program).
Similarly, there are Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW or LMSW), or Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists (LMFT or LMFTA). And then there are Nurse Psychotherapists, who are RNs with extra training in therapy.
There are also other more specific types of counselors, such as licensed chemical dependency, dance therapists, recreational therapists. But those are way more specific, and right now I am just focusing on the more general types of therapy. (comment below if you’d like to hear more about those!)
All of these people provide the same level or treatment. None of these people can prescribe medications, they can only do counseling and therapy.
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Which brings us to the next question: Who can prescribe medication?
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) who went to medical school, therefore they can prescribe medication. Another difference is that they do not provide therapy, (they CAN but you’d be hard pressed to find one that does). As primary care providers, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners can also prescribe medication. In some states (and in the military), a psychologist can prescribe medication, but not in Texas.
So how do you know which one you need?
All are equally qualified, so whichever one you vibe with. A doctor can refer you to a therapist if you need it, or a therapist can refer you to a doctor if you need medications. So start with whoever is most convenient to you. Usually if you need to be on medication, it will be in tandem with therapy.
I know it can be overwhelming, but any step you take, gets you closer to improving of your well-being. Just reach out! We are all equally qualified, so don’t let the names or labels throw you off. There might be different angles and approaches to treatment, but at the end of the day it’s about who you vibe with.
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