Guide to Psychiatry and Counseling
Types of Mental Health Professionals continued...
Licensed psychologists are qualified to do counseling and psychotherapy, perform psychological testing, and provide treatment for mental disorders. They are not, though, medical doctors. That means that with the exception of a couple of states, psychologists cannot write prescriptions or perform medical procedures. Often a psychologist will work in association with a psychiatrist who provides the medical treatment for mental illness while the psychologist provides the psychotherapy.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor. A psychological counselor is a mental health professional who has a master's degree (MA) in psychology, counseling, or a related field. In order to be licensed, the professional counselor also needs two additional years' experience working with a qualified mental health professional after graduate school. A mental health counselor is qualified to evaluate and treat mental problems by providing counseling or psychotherapy.
Clinical Social Worker. A clinical social worker has at least a master's degree in social work and training to be able to evaluate and treat mental illnesses. In addition to psychotherapy, social workers can provide case management and hospital discharge planning as well as work as an advocate for patients and their family.
Psychiatric or Mental Health Nurse. Some nurses have had special training in providing mental health services. Depending on their level of training and certification, they can evaluate patients for mental illness and provide treatment in the form of psychotherapy. In some states, they are also licensed to prescribe and monitor medications, sometimes independently and sometimes under the supervision of a medical doctor. Nurses also provide case-management services and serve as patient advocates.
The Difference Between Counseling and Psychotherapy
Although the terms counseling and therapy are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between psychotherapy and psychological counseling. Counseling focuses on specific issues and is designed to help a person address a particular problem, such as addiction or stress management. The focus may be on problem solving or on learning specific techniques for coping with or avoiding problem areas. Counseling is also usually more short-term than therapy.
Psychotherapy is more long-term than counseling and focuses on a broader range of issues. The underlying principle is that a person's patterns of thinking and unconscious awareness affect the way that person interacts with the world. The goal is to uncover those patterns and become aware of their effect and then learn new, healthier ways to think and interact.
Types of Psychotherapy
There are numerous approaches to psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, from which mental health professionals draw their treatment practices. Different types of psychotherapies are often better-suited to specific types of problems. For example, some psychotherapies are designed mainly to treat disorders like depression or anxiety, while others focus more on helping people overcome problems with relationships or obstacles to greater life satisfaction. Some forms of psychotherapy are one-on-one with a therapist, while others are group-based or family-based. According to the American Psychological Association, those approaches fall into five broad categories.