The Distinctions Among The Four Kinds of Mental Health Providers

There are so many professionals in the field of mental health that the average Joe would find it challenging to tell the differences of what each one is supposed to do. Counselors, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists... These terms are being confused and used interchangeably without the slightest inkling of the lines that divide each profession. This might be due to the overlap among the types of mental health professions with respect to training, the types of problems they handle, and treatment approaches they utilize. Thus, all the types of mental health professions are competent in the recognition and treatment of the most common psychological problems.

So what if you needed the services of a mental health provider? Which one should you set an appointment with? Well, if you really wanted to be sure that you get the most beneficial services, you might want to know the basics about these professions.

Here is a comparison among the four jobs involving psychological health:


A psychiatrist is a psychological health professional who has first received training as a medical practitioner, and then gone on to receive specialized training in treating mental disorders. A psychiatrist not only treats the common mental problems but also deals with the more major illnesses like schizophrenia and severe depression. Because of their extensive training and medical qualifications, the costs of a psychiatrist's services are generally higher than the other mental health professionals.

Psychiatrists are trained and licensed to use biomedical approaches such as medications. They alone, in Asia, can do so among the mental health professionals. Being physicians, psychiatrists can arrange for admissions to the hospital, for example, to a psychiatric ward. They can carry out physical examinations and a host of other diagnostic procedures, such as an Electroencephalograph (EEG) and brain imaging procedure scans like Computer Assisted Tomography (CAT).

An example of a situation that calls for the services of a psychiatrist is a serious emotional crisis with severe depression and suicidal ideations or attempts.

Clinical Psychologists

A clinical psychologist has studied psychology with the purpose of understanding, treating, and preventing psychological disorders.

The educational path of clinical psychologists may vary according to the place where they practice. Generally, the path consists of a bachelor degree with emphasis on courses related to mental health followed by a master level degree program specializing in clinical psychology. The usual standard for licensing or registration of clinical psychologists consists of the master level education and a suitable period of internship.

Clinical psychologists with a doctorate level of education are also able to carry out research studies with topics such as the effectiveness of various psychological health treatments.

If the problem involves a long standing behavioral or personality issue, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a clinical psychologist may be the best choice.


Although counselors are similar to clinical psychologists with respect to their training received, counselors are more focused on helping people cope with more normal life problems. For example, counselors may assist individuals in effectively coping with stressful life situations arising out of normal developmental changes.

However, there is a rising trend towards counselors dealing with more serious psychological health illnesses which may include depression and anxiety.

A counselor may be the best psychological health professional for problems with adjustment to a new job or problems at school.

Social Workers

The education of social workers greatly emphasizes the role of social factors and interventions at the community level. Barring this difference, social workers receive similar education with the other mental health professions in the matter of recognizing and treating mental health problems.

The bachelor or the master level is the standard for licensing. Social workers are particularly well-informed of the available mental health services in the community, and empower their clients to obtain such services.

Generally, social workers are employed by the government or at subsidized community centers. Because of their affordable fees and greater availability, social workers provide the lion's share of mental health services all over the world.

A social worker's services are most appropriate if financial considerations are important, and if the mental health problem necessitates coordination with other community sectors such as school, hospital, or the work place.

Mental health professionals have the knowledge, skills, and training to help with your mental health issues. Know the differences among them, and choose the best one for you.

Article Source: Marv Perez

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