Professionals in the Mental Health Field

Part of the 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.
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