What’s the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist? And a social worker and a counselor or a marriage and family therapist or psychotherapist?

Who can help - Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Social Worker, Counselor, Therapist?

There are so many titles for providers in the mental health arena that it can be confusing. Some of the many qualifications / titles include Psychiatrists, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners, Psychologists, Mental Health Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Psychotherapists. What does each mean and how which one of them should you see?

What are Psychiatrists? How are they different from Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners?

Psychiatrists study first to be a medical doctor and then they do extra years of training so that they can become a psychiatrist. Because they have a medical background, they can prescribe psychiatric medications if they think they are necessary. They can also generally provide “talk therapy” as well.

Often psychiatrists are booked up and it can be difficult to get an appointment with them. If you don’t think you will need psychiatric medications, you may be better to see one of the other mental health professionals described below.

Or you could see both but for different reasons. For example, if you are bipolar you may like to see a psychiatrist in order to obtain the necessary medications, but you may like to see a counselor so that you can work through any underlying issues you may have using talk therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or whatever the therapist recommends.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners train first to be a nurse and then they do extra training so that they can prescribe psychiatric medications. It can sometimes be easier to get an appointment with a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners than with a Psychiatrist, so if you just need a repeat of your psychiatric medications you may prefer to see the Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner.

What are Psychologists?

Clinical Psychologists have obtained a doctorate (PhD or PsyD). But some Social Workers, Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists have also obtained a doctorate.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that a Clinical Psychologist will be able to help you more than another mental health professional. It depends on their clinical experience and their skills.

But if you have more severe or complex mental health issues, you may choose to see Clinical Psychologist especially for your initial diagnosis. Or if you want to take various cognitive tests. They are more likely to be able to accept Medicare than counselors.

What are Social Workers?

Social Workers have at least a master’s degree (if not more). Their studies have a bit more emphasis on the effect of society on the individual, but if they are working in mental health, they have probably studied counseling as well. They can accept Medicare and Medicaid if they are on the Medicaid panel.

What are Mental Health Counselors?

Mental Health Counselors have at least a master’s degree (if not more). They are skilled in counseling a variety of mental health issues. They can accept Medicaid (but not Medicare) if they are on the Medicaid panel.

What are Marriage and Family Therapists?

Marriage and Family Therapists have at least a master’s degree (if not more). Their studies have a bit more emphasis on the effect of the family on the individual (and other systems like the effect of work on the individual). They are skilled in counseling a variety of mental health issues. They can also help with relationships issues and in settling family disputes. They can accept Medicaid (but not Medicare) if they are on the Medicaid panel.

What are Psychotherapists?

Psychotherapy is a technique – the practice of encouraging the client to talk through their problems. So any of the above mental health professionals might consider themselves a Psychotherapist.

So which of these mental health professionals should you see?

If you have a mental illness which requires medication, you should see a Psychiatrist or a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. For other mental disorders, if you want to claim your session on Medicare, you should see a Clinical Psychologist or a Clinical Social Worker. If you want to claim it on your insurance or Medicaid, you could see a Mental Health Counselor or Marriage and Family Therapist instead. If you don’t want to claim it on your insurance and intend to pay cash instead, you could ask them if they have a sliding scale to suit your financial situation.

You should also look at the mental health professionals webpage to see if they are experienced in treating your particular condition or issue. For example, some therapists have more experience with adolescents than others. Others are able to help children with their psychological issues. Some use Play Therapy in order to do this. Some provide couples counseling / marriage counseling whereas others don’t. Some are experienced in helping the LGBTQ community. Some therapists speak other languages and have experience in treating cultural issues. Some are experienced in treating addictions and have special certifications in this area. We also have therapists that have special sex therapy qualifications. And some of our therapist are also specialized in art therapy so you could try that if think it would help you to explore your issues visually rather than just with words.

Some of our providers are able to provide Christian counseling. Others can provide a more spiritual approach.

At the Ardent Counseling Center, all our providers work as a team so if they don’t feel they have the expertise to deal with your issue they will refer you to another therapist who does or else consult with them to determine the best approach. So rest assured, you will receive the help you need.

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