Which Mental Health Professional Is Right For Me?
There are many types of mental health professionals. Finding the right one for you may require some research. According to Mental Health America, a national and grassroots mental health advocacy organization, often it is a good idea to first describe the symptoms and/or problems to your family physician or clergy. He or she may be able to suggest the type of mental health professional you should call.
Types of Mental Health Professionals
- Psychiatrist–medical doctor, (M.D.) or osteopathic (D.O.), with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional illnesses. Like other doctors, psychiatrists are qualified to prescribe medication. Qualifications: state license and board eligible or certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
- Child/Adolescent Psychiatrist–medical doctor, (M.D.) or osteopathic (D.O.), with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of emotional and behavioral problems in children. Child/Adolescent psychiatrists are qualified to prescribe medication. Qualifications: state license and board eligible or certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
- Psychologist–Psychologist with a doctoral degree in psychology (such as a Ph.D. or Psy.D.) from an accredited/designated doctoral program in psychology. Trained to make diagnoses and provide individual and group therapy. Some psychologists may have a master’s degree and a license, such as an LMLP or LCP. Qualifications: State license; may be either Licensed Psychologist (LP), which requires a doctorate degree in field of psychology and 2 years of supervised work experience, a Licensed Masters Level Psychologist (LMLP), or a Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist (LCP)*
- Clinical Social Worker–Counselor with a masters degree in social work from an accredited graduate program. Trained to make diagnoses and provide individual and group counseling. Qualifications: state license; Typically a clinical social worker will have completed a Master’s degree in social work (MSW) and carry the Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker (LSCSW)* designation if they are doing psychotherapy
- Licensed Professional Counselor — Counselor with a masters degree in psychology, counseling or a related field. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling. Qualifications: state license; may be a Licensed Professional Counselor, (LPC) or a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC)*
- Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor — Counselor with specific clinical training in alcohol and drug abuse. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling. Qualifications: state license; may be either Licensed Addiction Counselor, (LAC) or Licensed Clinical Addiction Counselor (LCAC)
- Nurse Psychotherapist — A registered nurse (R.N.) who is trained in the practice of psychiatric and mental health nursing. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling. Qualifications: board of nursing certification, state license. Psychiatric/mental health nurses may have various degrees ranging from associate’s to bachelor’s (B.S.N.) to master’s (M.S.N. or A.P.R.N) to doctoral (D.N.Sc., Ph.D.)
- Marital and Family Therapist–A counselor with a masters degree, with special education and training in marital and family therapy. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling. Qualifications: state license; may be either Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) or Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist (LCMFT)*
- Pastoral Counselor — Clergy with training in clinical pastoral education. Qualifications: Certification from American Association of Pastoral Counselors.
*Note: All licensed professionals with a “clinical” designation in their title are required to have a masters degree and 4000 hours of supervised clinical experience, according to the Kansas Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board. Examples include: Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist (LCP), Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker (LSCSW), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), and Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist (LCMFT)
You Make the Call to the Mental Health Professional…Now What Do You Do?(from Mental Health America)
Spend a few minutes talking with him or her on the phone, ask about their approach to working with patients, their philosophy, whether or not they have a specialty or concentration (some psychologists for instance specialize in family counseling, or child counseling, while others specialize in divorce or coping with the loss of a loved one.) If you feel comfortable talking to the counselor or doctor, the next step is to make an appointment.
On your first visit, the counselor or the doctor, will want to get to know you and why you called him or her. The counselor will want to know– what you think the problem is, about your life, what you do, where you live, with whom you live. It is also common to be asked about your family and friends. This information helps the professional to assess your situation and develop a plan for treatment.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the professional after the first visit, or even after several visits, talk about your feelings at your next meeting; don’t be afraid to contact another counselor. Feeling comfortable with the professional you choose is very important to the success of your treatment.
Additional resources related to this topic can be found at:
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KAAP and Kansas KidLink assume no liability for damages arising from errors, omissions or services listed in this directory. KAAP and Kansas KidLink does not recommend or endorse any provider or agency listed in the guide. The directory is to be used solely for informational purposes.