Public discourse on the subject of mental health is on the rise. Studies show that tens of millions of people suffer from mental illness, but only half are undergoing any type of treatment. You may be considering seeking help for yourself or someone you know. An online search can connect you to everything from psychiatrists to counselors. What are the differences between these mental health professionals and how do you know which is the right one for you?
While you likely have heard of psychiatry and psychology, you may not know the difference between the two. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that specializes in mental illness prevention, diagnosis and treatment. They are trained to identify mental disorders and distinguish them from the psychiatric symptoms of certain medical conditions. They can also write prescriptions and monitor their effects. While some mental disorders may be completely treated with drugs, a psychiatrist such as Jack Wu MD may recommend counseling in some cases.
Psychologists have doctoral degrees in the study of the mind and behaviors. Licensed psychologists offer psychotherapy and counseling. While they may provide therapy for mental and emotional disorders, they usually cannot write prescriptions or conduct medical procedures as they are not medical doctors. Often a psychologist works with a psychiatrist in treating patients. The former offers psychotherapy while the latter provides medical treatment.
Other Mental Health Professionals
A licensed mental health counselor usually has a master’s degree in psychology or counseling and is qualified to offer such to patients. A clinical social worker also has a master’s degree and may have specialized training in evaluating and treating mental illness. A psychiatric nurse is another type of professional. Levels of training and licensure vary from state to state. Some nurses may be licensed to write prescriptions and monitor medication independent from a doctor.
It is important to seek the advice of a qualified professional when dealing with mental health. Different mental health professionals exist with varying levels of certification and responsibility. Be prepared to do some research and ask questions when seeking care.