Health Care Providers That Treat Depression

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on September 27, 2022
2 min read

The first step in treating clinical depression is recognizing that you are depressed. The second step is seeking help. These two steps may in fact be the hardest part of the entire treatment process. Once you seek help from a qualified health care provider, you will find that there are numerous treatment options to help you get back on track.

Early recognition and treatment will offer you the greatest chance of recovery and the earlier you seek help the greater the chance that recurrences can be prevented.

Once you decide to seek medical help, start with your primary care doctor. They can evaluate you to make sure that medicines or another illness are not the source of your symptoms. Your primary care doctor can also thoroughly assess your symptoms and provide treatment.  

If needed, they may refer you to a mental health care professional for care. 

Your primary care doctor may routinely screen you for depression during a regular office visit. 

Health care providers in many different environments and specialties are primarily skilled in preventative or general health care but also have some training in treating mental or psychiatric problems. They can also screen you for depression:

Primary Care Physician: Primary care doctors (such as internists or family practice doctors) are primarily skilled in medical health care but also are trained to treat mental or psychiatric problems. They can also screen you for depression. Physicians usually recommend specialized care for patients with more than mild symptoms of depression.

Psychiatrist: These are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental or psychiatric illnesses. Psychiatrists have a medical license and can prescribe drugs as part of their treatment regimen, They are also trained in psychotherapy, a form of "talking" therapy.

Physician Assistant: These medical health care givers are trained to identify symptoms of depression in patients and have some training in treating mental or psychiatric disorders under the supervision of a physician.

Nurse Practitioner: These health care providers are registered nurses (RNs) with added nursing training and some training in treating mental or psychiatric problems.

Psychologist: These are doctoral degree (PhD or PsyD) experts in psychology and are trained in counseling, psychotherapy, and psychological testing. Psychologists are not medical doctors and are not medically trained, and therefore are not licensed to prescribe medicines to treat mental illnesses except in a few states where legislation has permitted this.

Social Worker: These are specialists who provide mental health services for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of depression and other mental or psychiatric illnesses in individuals, families, and groups. Their goal is to enhance and maintain a person's physical, psychological, and social functioning.

Psychiatric Nurse Specialists: These are registered nurses (RNs) who are educated in psychiatric nursing and specialize in treating mental or psychiatric illnesses.