Professionals in the Mental Health Field

By Adam Cash

Part of Psychology For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When you need psychological help, you have a few choices — and remembering who they all are and what they do can be confusing. The following table summarizes the differences in training and focus for psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and other mental health professionals:

Professional Title Qualifications and Specialties
Psychologist Possesses a doctoral degree in psychology. Licensed by the
state in which he or she practices. Specializes in psychological
treatment of mental disorders, psychological assessment and
testing, and related consultation.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing any symptoms of
mental illness (depressed mood, bizarre behavior, disordered
speech), consider a visit to a local psychologist.
Psychiatrist Possesses a medical degree. Licensed to practice medicine in
his or her respective state. Specializes in the treatment of mental
disorders from a biological perspective with the use of
medications. Some psychiatrists conduct psychotherapy, but
it’s not their typical focus.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing any symptoms of
mental illness (depressed mood, bizarre behavior, disordered
speech), consider a visit to a local psychiatrist.
Social worker Typically possesses a master’s degree. Licensed as a
clinical social worker or a psychiatric social worker in his or her
state. Specializes in issues of social welfare and assisting
individuals with problematic social circumstances and
relationships, such as domestic violence or child abuse. Social
workers also conduct therapy and counseling for groups and
individuals.
Someone should consider visiting a social worker if he or she is
having problems living with his or her financial situation and
needs help finding and accessing resources.
Other professionals Other mental health or affiliated professionals include drug
counselors, marriage and family therapists, pastoral counselors,
school counselors, and school psychologists.