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What Is A Mental Health Professional?
Mental health is a broad and complex issue that requires different types of support or treatment. There are various types of professionals who provide different mental health services. A mental health professional is a person who offers services to improve an individual’s mental health and/or research in the field of mental health. Mental health professionals work in various areas to diagnose, treat and offer care to individuals suffering from mental illnesses and disorders. These illnesses may be mild or severe enough to require hospitalization. They include anxiety disorders, substance abuse, addiction, depression, schizophrenia, and others. Many mental health professionals are not limited to working in clinics and hospitals but, they also work in schools, government sectors, and research facilities. They may also work in consulting roles while managing a private practice.
Getting help for a mental, emotional, relationship, or any other issues can be difficult. Finding the right mental health professional can help you take control of any issue in your life.There are many types of mental health professionals varying in education, experience, certifications, and specialties. This article focuses on different types of mental health professionals.
Different Types Of Mental Health Professionals
Therapists can help a person to understand better and cope with thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They can also offer guidance and help improve a person’s ability to achieve life goals. These mental health professionals may also help assess and diagnose mental health conditions. The following mental health professionals have the required training and qualifications to assess and diagnose mental health conditions and provide therapy.
Psychologists hold a doctoral degree in Clinical psychology or another field such as counseling or education or industry. They are skilled in evaluating a person’s mental health using clinical interviews, psychological evaluations, and psychological testing. They can make diagnoses and provide individual and group therapy. Some may have training in specific forms of therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), or other behavioral therapy interventions. Psychologists are not medical doctors and thus, they can’t prescribe medicines to patients.
People often use the words Counselor and psychotherapist interchangeably. However, both professionals can offer talk therapy without medications, but they are different. Counselors are masters-level clinicians who provide guidance and support for people with specific mental health issues. A few counselors specialize in treating various mental illnesses. Other counselors might address issues related to mental health, such as marriage or addiction counselors. They are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health and use therapeutic techniques based on specific training programs. They operate under a variety of job titles—including counselor, clinician, therapist, or something else—based on the treatment setting. Working with one of these mental health professionals can lead not only to symptom reduction but also to better ways of thinking, feeling, and living.
Psychiatrists are certified medical doctors who have completed their training in the field of Psychiatry. They can diagnose mental health conditions, prescribe and monitor medications along with providing therapy. Psychiatrists have completed their MD (Doctor of Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) plus completion of residency training in Psychiatry. Psychiatrists treat a variety of disorders such as – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Eating disorders, Anxiety, and depressive disorders, etc. with the help of Psychotherapy and medications.
4. Psychiatric Pharmacists
Psychiatric pharmacists specialize in recommending and supplying psychoactive medicines which are meant for treating mental health issues ranging from depression and eating disorders to obsessive-compulsive disorders and personality disorders. Working jointly with doctors, psychiatrists, and psychiatric nurses, psychiatric pharmacists offer knowledgeable insight into hundreds of psychiatric drugs, how they affect brain chemistry, the possibility of the side effects on one’s body and mind, and whether a certain medication may better address a patient’s psychological needs than the other. Additionally, they often work with independent research labs or pharmaceutical companies to help design and clinically test new psychoactive drugs. They may also serve on the faculty at universities as graduate-level course instructors. The degree requirement for Psychiatric Pharmacist is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD).
5. Clinical Social Workers
Clinical social work is defined as a dedicated area of social work practice that includes identifying, treating, and preventing mental illness, and helping individuals address psychological, emotional, behavioral, and/or social challenges that affect their quality of life. Such challenges may include trauma, family struggles, physical as well as mental illnesses, and tough life situations such as unemployment, marital disputes, or even substance abuse. Clinical social workers work in different settings, such as hospital departments, child welfare agencies, employee assistance programs, schools, healthcare clinics, substance abuse and addiction clinics, and many others. Licensed clinical social workers can also enter private practice. They are required to hold a master’s in Social Work Degree (MSW). Licensing procedure differs from state to state. Clinical social workers usually use a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, and/or various case management responsibilities to support their clients; their precise responsibilities depend on their work environment and the populations they are working with.
6. Psychiatric or Mental Health Nurse Practitioners
A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is qualified to take care of patients with mental health issues across their lifespan. They are qualified in assessment, diagnosis, planning, and evaluation. Their work can include – carrying out a mental health assessment, Diagnosing the illness, Psychoeducating the patient as well as a family about the illness, Prescribing a treatment plan, Leading Psychotherapy sessions, Coordinate services for other healthcare components, etc. These nurses have a degree requirement of Master of Science (MS) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing with a specialized focus on psychiatry.
7. Primary Care Physicians
A primary care physician is just like a personal health detective and advocate. S/he is the one who assesses a patient’s symptoms to diagnose and manage their health. In addition to precautionary care, like annual check-ups, blood tests, and immunizations, primary care doctors help to diagnose and manage chronic conditions such as hypertension or diabetes, and acute conditions like heart disease. A primary care doctor is a go-to person when health-related issues arise. Along with that, they can prescribe medicines, but visiting someone who specializes in mental health care is of utmost necessity. Primary care physicians and mental health professionals should always work together to determine an individual’s best treatment plan. A primary care physician should hold a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree.
8. Family Nurse Practitioners
Family nurse practitioners (FNP) provide general medical services like those of a primary care physician, which is based on each state’s laws. Like primary care physicians, they can prescribe medication, but it is necessary to visit someone who specializes in mental health care. Family nurse practitioners and mental health professionals should work together to determine an individual’s best treatment plan. FNPs play a vital role in healthcare and they also serve both individuals and families for longer periods. Their roles may include – Recording patients’ medical histories and maintaining records on symptoms, treatment, or any other prescribed medication; performing routine physical examinations; Assessing and diagnosing health conditions; Making referrals to physicians or other departments whenever appropriate., etc. They must hold a Master of Science (M.S.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing.
9. Peer Support Specialist
A peer support specialist (PSS) is an individual who supports others to recover from mental health issues or substance abuse. They offer different viewpoints, encouragement, and information on community resources. These professionals are sometimes also referred to as peer recovery support specialists (PRSS), peer specialists, peer counselors, peer workers, certified peer specialists, or something similar. Peer support is intended to complement, supplement and extend formal primary care services like therapy. It can never act as a substitute for therapy. It works as a complimentary service in its nature: informal, proactive, flexible, continual, and long-term. It fills the gaps that are often left by the conventional treatment system. Many types of research show that peer support provides psychological and physical health benefits for both the receiver and the provider.
10. Pastoral Counselors
Pastoral Counseling is a unique form of psychotherapy that uses spiritual resources as well as psychological understanding for a person’s healing and growth. It is provided by certified pastoral counselors, who are not only mental health professionals but have also had in-depth religious and/or theological training. While some individuals turn to a psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist, others want to support and the opportunity to discuss their problems or illness in a spiritual context. These counselors come into the picture in this case. These counselors provide therapeutic support and spiritual guidance to people in need of all ages and situations. The unique orientation and listening perspective that pastoral counselors provide help people in need find peace, forgiveness, and acceptance.
A psychoanalyst is a healthcare provider who specializes in the mental health needs of adults, and children in some cases. Psychoanalysts use the method of psychoanalysis developed by Sigmund Freud which is an in-depth form of talk therapy. This type helps people overcome difficulties and make lasting changes in their lives. Many types of providers practice psychoanalysis, including psychiatrists, psychologists, nurse practitioners, clinical social workers, counselors, and marriage and family therapists. A Psychoanalyst typically evaluates patients’ mental and emotional health, performs necessary assessments, and explores the unconscious repressed impulses, anxieties, and internal conflicts through techniques such as free association, dream interpretation, etc.
12. Art Therapist
Art therapy is a unique way of therapy. Art therapists deal in a very specific type. This method involves using creativity in ways such as painting, sculpture, and writing to explore, dancing and this therapy help the most with depression, medical illnesses, past traumatic events, and addiction. People who believe in this type of therapy think it can help you express underlying thoughts and feelings that traditional talking therapy may not expose. It is also considered a process of self-discovery.
13. School Psychologists
School PsychologistsWork with children and adolescents to facilitate learning and development. Numerous issues such as learning difficulty, autism, ADHD, and eating disorders can emerge at the school level. Many students also face difficulty in settling into school. Along with that, adolescent issues, parental guidance, and excessive screen time are the few issues school Psychologists face.
NeuropsychologistsDeal with the relationship between the brain and its neuropsychological functions such as vision, memory, and smell. They work with private clinics and hospitals and help in the rehabilitation of people recovering from brain injuries caused by accidents, birth issues, traumas, stroke, or other degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia, etc.
15. Occupational Therapists
They are also known as Occupational Psychologists or vocational Psychologists. They help various organizations to get the best from their employees and improve job satisfaction. Their work includes building strategies, motivating and recruiting staff, and helping individuals gain new skills. They also work with Private clinics or hospitals to help people with mental illnesses build or maintain their careers.
16. Forensic Psychologists
They are also known as criminal psychologists, legal psychologists, or criminologists. They work with Research and assistance in crime and justice to deal with the psychological aspects of legal processes and apply theory to a criminal investigation by understanding psychological problems associated with criminal behavior and psychological support to those who are imprisoned.
18. Sports Psychologists
They work with various sports teams to motivate the team members, maintain their mental health and manage their aggression. They work especially directly with state or national or international sports teams.
How to Choose A Mental Health Professional?
Choosing the right mental health professional can be challenging, especially finding one who meets all of your needs. It is important to set aside some time to plan out the process. It is important to understand that it is not enough simply to find a licensed therapist. During the planning process, one needs to think about your needs, for example, the severity of your symptoms, medication needs, type of therapist, and type of therapy that may be best for you.
There are a few factors that one needs to keep in mind when choosing among the various types of mental health providers:
- The specialty of the professional – One needs to take into consideration what specialty the mental health professional is holding. For example – if a couple is having marital disputes and wants to seek counseling for the same, it is better to look out for a therapist who specialized in marriage counseling than one who is specialized in Child counseling. Seeking the right professional is one of the crucial factors in going ahead with the therapy procedure.
- The severity of the problems – One needs to understand his/her severity of the issues. If the issues are so severe that one needs to take medications along with therapy, one needs to visit a psychiatrist instead of a counselor.
- The qualification and experience – One major part to focus on while seeking therapy is the professional’s qualifications and years of experience and expertise in the field. It is necessary to seek help from a qualified professional for the desired results. It is also necessary to check one’s licensure.
- Convenience – Convenience in language, fees, gender, timings, length of session, mode of conduction (Online/Offline/Group/Individual) everything needs to be checked before seeking therapy. A person can open up well and recover only if s/he is comfortable with the therapist.
The Bottom Line
Taking the first step towards seeking help can be overwhelming and difficult. Knowing what type of mental health professional, you want to talk to can help the process. If you choose the right professional, the chances to recover also improve, and thus, it is the first but, extremely important stage in seeking help.
Seeking Help From A Mental Health Professional?
Do you want to seek help from a professional for some of your issues? Are you confused about where you should seek the right help? Don’t worry. We are here to help you!