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Types of Mental Health Therapists


For our purposes, all mental health therapists help people deal with emotional and psychological reactions to living after a diagnosis of a life-changing condition.

Differences among the different types of therapists relate to the type and amount of education and experience. Differences in approach relate more to a professional's training and beliefs than to the type of therapist a person is.

  • Psychiatrists
    • A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has completed medical school, internship and residency requirements who specializes in the mental aspects of illness.
    • A psychiatrist can prescribe medication and may have admitting privileges with a hospital.
  • Psychologists
    • A psychologist is a licensed mental health professional who has completed an advanced degree in psychology that usually includes clinical training and internships. Psychologists are either have a Masters degree or are Doctors of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
    • Psychologists cannot prescribe medication.
  • Social Workers
    • A social worker is a professional with a college degree who is trained to talk with people and their families about emotional and physical needs. Social workers have training and expertise in finding support services and financial assistance.
    • There are social workers who specialize in helping people with particular diseases, such as HIV or cancer. Social workers who specialize in cancer are known as Oncology Social Workers.
    • Social workers cannot prescribe medications
  • Counselors
    • Counselors are therapists with the least amount of education and training.
    • Counselors cannot prescribe medications.

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