Updated: Jun 4
May 1, 2023
When it comes to seeking help for mental health concerns, it can be confusing to know who to turn to. There are several professionals who work in the mental health field, including psychologists, mental health therapists, and psychiatrists, physician associates, and nurse practitioners. While these professionals may all have overlapping areas of expertise, there are some key differences between them that are important to understand. When it comes to managing mental health concerns, medication can be an important part of treatment. However, not all mental health professionals are authorized to prescribe medication. We will explore the different types of mental health providers and their roles in mental health treatment.
Psychologists are mental health professionals who have earned a doctoral degree in psychology. They specialize in the study of human behavior and mental processes and are trained to diagnose and treat a range of mental health disorders. Psychologists use a variety of techniques, including talk therapy and behavioral therapy, to help individuals manage their mental health concerns.
One of the main differences between psychologists and other mental health professionals is that psychologists cannot prescribe medication but are often the only providers that can objectively validate a diagnosis. However, they can work with other medical professionals, such as psychiatrists, physician associates, nurse practitioners, or primary care physicians to coordinate care for individuals who may benefit from medication.
Mental Health Therapists
Mental health therapists, also known as counselors or therapists, are mental health professionals who are trained to provide talk therapy to individuals with mental health concerns. They may have a master's degree in counseling or social work, or they may have completed a specialized training program.
Mental health therapists typically use talk therapy to help individuals identify and manage their mental health concerns. This may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors, or psychodynamic therapy, which explores unconscious thoughts and feelings.
Mental health therapists cannot prescribe medication, but they may work with other medical professionals to coordinate care for individuals who may benefit from medication.
Medication Management Providers
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in the treatment of mental health disorders. They have completed medical school and a residency program in psychiatry, which focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders.
One of the main differences between psychiatrists and other mental health professionals is that psychiatrists can prescribe medication. They may also use talk therapy as part of their treatment approach, although they typically focus more on medication management than therapy.
Psychiatrists may work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices. They often work closely with other medical professionals, such as primary care physicians or psychologists, to coordinate care for individuals with complex mental health needs.
Physician assistants/associates (PAs) are healthcare professionals who may also specialize in psychiatric care. They have completed a master's or doctoral degree in medical science studies and have passed a national certification exam. PAs are licensed to practice medicine and can prescribe medication.
Mental health physician associates work with individuals who have mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. They provide a range of services, including therapy, medication management, and crisis management. PAs often work in collaboration with therapists, psychologists, primary care physicians, and other mental health professionals to provide comprehensive care.
Psychiatric nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who specialize in mental health care. They have earned a master's or doctoral degree in nursing and have completed specialized training in mental health diagnosis and treatment. Nurse practitioners are licensed to practice advanced nursing and can prescribe medication.
Psychiatric nurse practitioners work with individuals who have mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. They provide a range of services, including therapy, medication management, and crisis management. Nurse practitioners often work in collaboration with psychiatrists, primary care physicians, and other mental health professionals to provide comprehensive care.
In summary, psychologists, mental health therapists, PAs, NPs, and psychiatrists are all mental health professionals who are trained to diagnose and treat mental health concerns. While they may have overlapping areas of expertise, there are important differences between them, particularly in terms of their training and ability to prescribe medication. If you are seeking help for a mental health concern, it is important to consider which type of professional may be best suited to your needs.
Treatment For long-term Success
At Pine Ridge Mental Healthcare, we’ve found success using a variety of approaches to mental health management. Getting your mental health under control is a key step in managing your life.
Our team works to reduce your reliance on medications by educating you about the different tools available and how life situations can affect your mood. And we help keep you on track with regular check-ins to monitor your health.
For more information about if you may have a mental health disorder or for help managing your mental health, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at Pine Ridge Mental Healthcare in Owasso, Oklahoma. If you are interested in other services we provide, check out our services page.