Mental Health Providers 101
When someone seeks out mental health services it can be confusing to know exactly who you should meeting with. Are they a medical doctor or do they have their doctorate? Will they give me a diagnosis? Who can give medication? This quick reference has been created for others utilize in order to get an understanding of which type of provider will be able to best fit their needs.
Addiction/Alcohol and Drug Counselor: Many counselors who provide drug and alcohol counseling have a certification for working with addiction, in addition to a Masters or Doctorate degree. Others may possess an Associates degree in conjunction with the certification. These providers have specialized training and understanding in treating addiction. If you feel that you are struggling with a substance use or other type of addiction (gambling, pornography, etc) an addiction counselor may be the first place to start. These providers are also helpful and supportive to those who have loved ones who are struggling with addiction.
Licensed Therapist or counselor: Often times Licensed Therapists and Counselors are Masters level providers. Common types of Masters level providers are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT), Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC). These providers have received two or more years of education related to providing mental health services and therapy to individuals, families and children. Types of issues that these providers may address are anxiety, depression, adjusting to life changes (divorce, move, empty nest, etc) and family conflict. Many of these practitioners also have specialized training in specific areas (postnatal, play therapy, trauma, etc) and it can be helpful to seek out someone who has worked with the problem areas that you are experiencing as well.
Psychologist: These providers have received training to achieve a Masters degree and additional training to obtain their Doctorate degree. Many of these providers have their Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology (Ph.D) or a Doctorate of Psychology (Psy.D.). Some providers may have their Doctor in Marriage and Family Therapy(DMFT). Most of these providers can complete full psychological testing, in addition to providing therapy. Often one will seek out a psychologist if needing an assessment or diagnosis, testing for further understanding of a presenting issue or for talk therapy.
Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists have obtained their Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) degrees while completing medical school. These providers then obtained additional training in psychiatry where they were taught how to provide various mental health services including therapy, testing and assessment and psychopharmacology. Psychiatrists are able to provide medication, if they choose to.
Many providers will offer a free 30-minute consultation to assess if they are the right fit for you in order to address why you are seeking mental health services. It is also important to point out that, at times, individuals will receive services from many or all of the different types of providers listed above. It is very common for mental health providers to work together in order to provide the best services to their patients as possible. If you start working with one provider, they may ask permission (in the form of a document giving them written permission) to speak with another provider. If you are in need of a mental health provider in San Diego please contact me or your insurance provider for additional information.