What Are the Types of Behavioral Health Providers?
Psychiatrists (M.D. or D.O) are medical doctors with training in behavioral health. They can diagnose behavioral health conditions and prescribe treatment, both medication and psychotherapy. Psychiatrists can also provide psychotherapy. Psychiatrists gain licensure to practice psychiatry in individual states. Many psychiatrists undergo an additional year of fellowship training to become specialized in a specific field. The specialties of psychiatry are:
- Child and Adolescent Psychiatry- Child and adolescent psychiatry emphasizes the developmental differences between children and teens of different ages.
- Geriatric Psychiatry- Geriatric psychiatry focuses on the biological and psychological aspects of normal aging, as well as the biological and psychosocial aspects of psychiatric disturbances common with old age.
- Addiction Psychiatry- Addiction psychiatry is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of addiction, both as a primary diagnosis and as a secondary issue within a psychiatric profile.
- Forensic Psychiatry- Forensic psychiatry covers the meeting between law and psychiatry. Forensic psychiatrists primarily provide services, such as providing expert witness testimony or making the determination of a person’s ability to stand trial.
Psychologists (Ph.D., PsyD.,Ed.D.) are trained in the science of psychology. Psychologists are either in clinical, educational, counseling, or research settings. Those in clinical settings diagnose, facilitate psychological testing, and offer psychotherapy. Psychologists gain licensure to practice psychology in individual states.
Social Workers vary significantly in credentials and licensing and can provide a range of services based on those credentials. Typically, social work is broken into two categories: direct service and clinical. Clinical social workers are licensed to practice psychotherapy, recommend treatment from other specialists, and typically work one-on-one with consumers. Direct service social workers provide services on the macro level, usually in administrative positions within programs, institutions, and committees that serve to help people.
- Social Workers in Administration, Policy, and Research
- Child, Family, and School Social Workers
- Gerontological Social Workers
- Medical and Health Social Workers
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
- Military and Veterans Social Work
- Palliative and Hospice Social Work
- Psychiatric Social Work
Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) primarily specialize in psychotherapy. The exact title for these professionals varies by state. In addition to secondary education (either a master’s or doctorate in counseling), LPCs must obtain supervised clinical experience and pass state-specific licensing exams. LPCs may specialize in certain areas like marriage issues or substance abuse. LPCs do not prescribe medications and typically do not offer formal diagnoses.
Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP) have a master’s degree in nursing practice and can offer assessment, diagnosis, prescriptions, and psychotherapy. PMHNPs are licensed to provide emergency psychiatric services and manage all stages of consumer care. They may also serve as consultants or educators for families and health care staff. PMHNPs can diagnose and treat patients in 27 states, and can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication in 19. In the remaining states, PMHNPs collaborate with physicians to determine the scope of their practice, and physician sign off on diagnoses and treatment prescribed by the psychiatric nurse practitioner.
Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurses (PMHN) have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing and offer services that can include assessment and treatment of psychiatric illness, medication management, and psychotherapy. PSNs have special training in the care of people with psychiatric illness or distress including the administration of psychiatric medication and skills for dealing with challenging behavior associated with behavioral health disorders.