What are the types of therapists for mental health problems?

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

The types of therapists who provide help with mental health problems are:

  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Psychotherapist
  • Psychoanalyst
  • Psychiatric Social Worker
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
  • Marriage Family Therapist (MFT)
Part of this will relate to the state in which a person resides since there are different licenses.  It is highly recommended that a person get services from a LICENSED mental health professional.  THe following professions are licensable and can provide mental health services:  psychiatrists (who are MDs), psychologists (Ph.D., PsyD, or Ed.D), Licensed social workers (MSW with LCSW), and Marriage and Family Therapist (Master's degree plus a license - in some states it is called an MFT).   Persons with severe mental illnes or have more severe disorders that require medication often benefit from receiving psychiatric and psychological care from doctoral level clinicians, and may work with both a psychiatrist for medication management and a psychologist for therapy.  When looking for  help with specific types of disorders - the training of the therapist matters.  Some therapists have specialized training in the treatment of phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder etc - and persons with those disorders may benefit from seeing those therapists.  Getting help for children requires finding a therapist with tha expertise, and specifically asking what type of training and experience they have with a specific age group, and the same applies for the elderly Finally, if family therapy, group therapy, or couples therapy is needed, then a person with expertise in conducting such work is indicated.  Social workers are often  By ensuring the therapist is licensed, it provides greater protection for the client, who can then turn to the licensing board if any issues arise.

People with mental illness can be helped by several different kinds of therapists. Primary care physicians often treat patients who have mild mental health problems. Psychiatrists are physicians who have special training in treating mental illness. They can prescribe drugs and other treatments and admit patients to mental hospitals. Psychologists have advanced training in treating mental illness. They can provide psychotherapy (talk therapy) but can't prescribe drugs. Psychiatric social workers have advanced training, usually in a specific therapeutic area such as family therapy. For people with severe mental illness, a team of several different practitioners may be needed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.