How can a psychologist help with mental health therapy?

A psychologist is a qualified mental health provider. Psychologists hold a master's degree and some also undergo doctoral or postdoctoral training. They can practice psychotherapy, but cannot prescribe medication.

David Tolin
Psychologists specialize in providing psychotherapy or behavioral therapy for mental disorders and related problems. 

The American Psychological Association only recognizes the doctoral degree (Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.) and does not recommend using the term psychologist for clinicians with master's degrees (although some state licensing boards do use this term).  

Psychology is a social science, and psychologists have contributed a large body of research to our knowledge about human behavior, human development, psychological problems, the measurement and understanding of personality characteristics, and other important areas of knowledge about how people think, feel and behave. A professional psychologist has broad knowledge about human behavior, and understands how to apply that knowledge to help people change.

Most psychologists do not prescribe medication, although this is changing, and more than one state has passed legislation to allow psychologists with appropriate training to prescribe medications for the treatment of psychological problems.

The doctoral degree in psychology typically takes four to five years of graduate study in the science of psychology, including the social, developmental, learning and biological bases for human behavior. Specialized training is also provided in diagnostic evaluation techniques, psychological testing, and psychotherapy and/or counseling methods. Clinical experience is also part of the training, with at least one year of full-time clinical practice (called an internship or residency) required before the doctoral degree can be awarded, and at least another year of more advanced practice (called a postdoctoral fellowship) usually required before the person can be licensed.

All 50 states have licensing requirements for psychologists which are designed to protect the public by preventing inexperienced or untrained individuals from representing themselves as psychologists. In addition to verifying that the person has met education and training requirements, state licensing boards also require individuals to pass a licensing examination.

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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.