Hi. It’s Jenny at AnxietyBoss.com. Our question today is from Phyllis in Cincinnati. Psychologist, psychiatrists, therapist, counselor or social worker, how do I know which one to choose?
It depends on what services you are seeking. A psychologist is a licensed mental health care provider. They hold at least a Master’s Degree in Psychology or a Doctorate Degree in Psychology, either a PhD or a PsyD. They have been to school between 6 and 12 years and passed a very competitive exam to demonstrate a minimal acceptable level of competence and knowledge. They provide psychotherapy and conduct psychological testing. They can administer tests to determine personality traits, intelligence, the extent of damage due to a brain injury, if one has mental competence to manage one’s affairs, if someone is making progress in therapy, or if someone has a severe mental disorder.
A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the treatment of mental illness. They hold the MD or DO degree, Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy and have completed a three- to five-year residency or training program in psychiatry. They can prescribe and manage medications for mental illness and also provide psychotherapy.
A therapist or a counselor probably has at least a Master’s Degree and may be licensed or working under the supervision of a licensed and experienced mental health professional as they work toward licensure. Therapist is more of a job description than a title. It is a very generic term used to describe someone who provides therapy.
A counselor is a more specific title, as they may be licensed to conduct counseling and psychotherapy. A social worker is a type of licensed counselor. They have a Master’s Degree referred to as an MSW or Masters of Social Work.
When you contact one of these professionals, you can describe what problems you are seeking help with and they will either make an appointment to see you or refer you to another professional appropriately.