Your Guide to Different Types of Mental Health Providers

Choos­ing a men­tal health provider is about estab­lish­ing a new rela­tion­ship – one that can help you nav­i­gate the ups and downs of life, both now and in the future. It is impor­tant that you feel com­fort­able and sup­port­ed by your men­tal health provider, and that you share a sim­i­lar per­spec­tive regard­ing approach to care. 

When it comes to select­ing a men­tal health provider, you have options. There are a range of pro­fes­sion­als trained in diag­nos­ing and treat­ing men­tal health con­di­tions com­mon among adults in the US. 

Tak­ing care of your men­tal health is invest­ing in your over­all well­ness, and it can change the course of your life for the bet­ter. If you’re look­ing to find a provider to sup­port your men­tal health, you need to know who’s who in men­tal health and how to choose the best provider to fit your needs. 


psy­chi­a­trist is a physi­cian (that is, some­one who has a MD or DO degree) who is spe­cial­ly trained in men­tal health. They may also spe­cial­ize fur­ther, such as in psy­chi­a­try for chil­dren and ado­les­cents, or peo­ple expe­ri­enc­ing addic­tion. Psy­chi­a­trists diag­nose and treat men­tal health con­di­tions, often through pro­vid­ing med­ica­tion-based interventions. 

Psy­chi­a­trists may also work close­ly with physi­cian assis­tants (PAs), nurse prac­ti­tion­ers (NPs), and/​or advance prac­tice nurs­es (APNs) in pro­vid­ing psy­chi­atric care for patients with men­tal ill­ness­es. You may work direct­ly with a PA, NP, or APN in man­ag­ing your psy­chi­atric care. 

Clin­i­cal and Coun­sel­ing Psychologists 

Clin­i­cal and coun­sel­ing psy­chol­o­gists are doc­tors (that is, some­one who has a PhD or PsyD degree) trained in psy­chol­o­gy, a branch of sci­ence that focus­es on thoughts, behav­iors, and emotions. 

To diag­nose and treat men­tal health con­di­tions, psy­chol­o­gists use talk ther­a­py (also known as psy­chother­a­py) to help peo­ple iden­ti­fy and under­stand their emo­tions, behav­iors, and thoughts, and learn new skills for cop­ing with dif­fi­cult expe­ri­ences. Some psy­chol­o­gists spe­cial­ize in spe­cial kinds of ther­a­py, such as cog­ni­tive behav­ioral ther­a­py (CBT), dialec­ti­cal behav­ior ther­a­py (DBT), and accep­tance and com­mit­ment ther­a­py (ACT). Psy­chol­o­gists aren’t usu­al­ly licensed to pre­scribe med­ica­tion, but they often work with oth­er pre­scrib­ing providers. 


Neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists are clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gists (that is, PhD or PsyD degree) who have fur­ther spe­cial­ized in under­stand­ing the rela­tion­ship between the brain and behav­ior. Neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists con­duct com­pre­hen­sive assess­ments of an individual’s cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al func­tion­ing to help with diag­no­sis and guid­ing treat­ment plans. 

Your men­tal health provider or doc­tor may refer you for a neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal assess­ment if they feel it would be help­ful for your over­all care. It is often the case that you would be referred to a neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist for just a cou­ple of vis­its to com­plete an eval­u­a­tion, and it would not take the place of con­tin­u­ing care with your oth­er estab­lished men­tal health providers. 

Health Psychologists 

Health psy­chol­o­gists are doc­tors (PhD or PsyD degree) who spe­cial­ize in under­stand­ing how the mind and body inter­act to affect our over­all health and well­ness. They work with patients to under­stand how psy­cho­log­i­cal fac­tors can influ­ence phys­i­cal health and ill­ness and vice ver­sa. They often pro­vide assess­ment and ther­a­peu­tic inter­ven­tion for indi­vid­u­als with co-occur­ring phys­i­cal and men­tal health con­di­tions to improve health­care outcomes. 

Coun­selors and Therapists 

Coun­selors and ther­a­pists usu­al­ly have at least a master’s degree in psy­chol­o­gy, coun­sel­ing, or anoth­er relat­ed field. The title they use often depends on where they are pro­vid­ing treat­ment, their spe­cif­ic degree, or their per­son­al preference. 

Trained to eval­u­ate people’s men­tal health, help patients nav­i­gate symp­tom man­age­ment, and pro­mote health­i­er ways to live, coun­selors and ther­a­pists treat a range of men­tal health con­di­tions. Coun­selors and ther­a­pists aren’t licensed to pre­scribe med­ica­tion, how­ev­er, they usu­al­ly work with oth­er providers who do. 

Clin­i­cal Social Workers 

Licensed clin­i­cal social work­ers (LCSW) have at least a master’s degree in social work, and some have a doc­tor­ate. They assess and pro­vide treat­ment for a range of men­tal health conditions. 

They’re also spe­cial­ly trained in case man­age­ment (plan­ning for and mon­i­tor­ing of dif­fer­ent social and health­care ser­vices for a client) and advo­cat­ing for their patients. Clin­i­cal social work­ers can’t pre­scribe med­ica­tion, but they can work with a pre­scrib­ing provider to do so, if needed. 

Are you ready to put your men­tal health first? Make an appoint­ment with a Duly Behav­ioral and Men­tal Health provider today.

Oth­er Types of Men­tal Health Professionals 

The list of men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als does not end there. Some oth­er health­care pro­fes­sion­als that pro­vide men­tal health care include: 

  • Pri­ma­ry care providers 
  • Fam­i­ly nurse practitioners 
  • Pas­toral coun­selors (cler­gy mem­bers trained to pro­vide counseling) 
  • Cer­ti­fied alco­hol and drug abuse counselors 
  • Peer spe­cial­ists (men­tal health providers who have per­son­al expe­ri­ence with con­di­tions relat­ed to men­tal health or sub­stance use)

Decid­ing Which Men­tal Health Provider is Right for You 

Under­stand­ing the types of men­tal health providers is just the first step. When you make the cru­cial deci­sion to begin men­tal health treat­ment, you’ll need to con­sid­er your indi­vid­ual needs and what type of provider may be right for you. 

Start with iden­ti­fy­ing your pri­ma­ry con­cerns. Men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als are trained to treat most men­tal health con­cerns. How­ev­er, some providers have spe­cial train­ing or expe­ri­ence in cer­tain areas, such as eat­ing dis­or­ders, mar­i­tal prob­lems, or grief and loss. Providers may also spe­cial­ize in an age group, such as ado­les­cents or old­er indi­vid­u­als. Oth­ers are trained to pro­vide com­pas­sion­ate and knowl­edge­able care for spe­cif­ic pop­u­la­tions, such as the LGBTQ+ community. 

You may also want to con­sid­er whether you would like to dis­cuss med­ica­tion options to help man­age your men­tal health. Keep in mind – if you see a provider who isn’t licensed to pre­scribe med­ica­tion and you end up need­ing med­ica­tions, they will work with a pre­scrib­ing provider as part of your care team to meet your needs. 

Don’t for­get to review your health insur­ance cov­er­age. Some insur­ance plans only cov­er vis­its with spe­cif­ic types of men­tal health providers, or they place a lim­it on the num­ber of vis­its you can have dur­ing a cov­er­age year. 

Once you find a provider you’re inter­est­ed in, make an appoint­ment to get to know them. If you don’t think they’re a good fit, don’t hes­i­tate to reach out to anoth­er provider. It’s impor­tant to feel com­fort­able with your provider so you can work col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly toward your treat­ment goals. 

Choos­ing a men­tal health­care provider is a big deci­sion and may seem like a daunt­ing one. How­ev­er, there’s truth to the proverb, a jour­ney of a thou­sand miles begins with a sin­gle step.” Make that sin­gle step for your­self and reach out to make an appoint­ment with a provider you think may be a good fit for you. 

  • Much of my training has been in rehabilitation neuropsychology, and it is from the tenets of this methodology that I aim to encourage and support optimal functional independence and quality of life for all my patients. I approach clinical practice with a strong belief in the importance of individualized treatment and care tailored to each patient’s needs. Shared decision making plays a central role in my clinical perspective. That is, in any interaction between a patient and provider, there are two experts in the room; the provider, who brings knowledge regarding their medical specialty and best practices within their field, and the patient, who is the expert in their own experiences, lifestyle, and personal values. It is my philosophy that the journey through neuropsychological assessment is enhanced with collaboration and active participation in a shared decision making approach.