Mental Health Professionals That Provide Psychotherapy

Different Mental Health Professionals Can Deliver Different Services

family therapy session
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When you hear the term psychotherapist, you might immediately think of a psychologist. However, there are actually a number of different people who are able to provide psychotherapy services to clients suffering from mental illness and psychological distress. While each of these professions deals first-hand with the practice of psychotherapy, they often utilize different techniques and approaches. Each profession also has its own unique educational and training requirements.

Professionals who provide psychotherapy and other mental health services often hold a number of different titles, credentials, or licenses. Job titles such as "psychologist" and "psychiatrist" require the individual to meet specific state and national requirements.

The regulation of titles such as "psychotherapist" and "therapist" varies from state to state. For example, in the state of Oregon, the use of the title "psychotherapist" is restricted to individuals who are licensed by the Oregon Board of Psychological Examiners.

Types of Psychotherapy Providers

If you are interested in working in mental health or if you are seeking a therapist for treatment, it is important to understand the credentials, licensing requirements, and certifications of therapy providers.

  • Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have graduated from medical school and then participated in a resident program in psychiatric care. They specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses and have the ability to prescribe medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. Some psychiatrists are board-certified, indicating they have passed written and oral board exams after completing medical school and psychiatric residency. Most psychiatrists do not offer counseling services but will recommend treatment and give referrals to therapists.
  • Psychologists: Psychologists typically offer individual or group therapy treatment sessions. There are levels within the distinction of a psychologist. Ph.D. psychologists have undergone five years of graduate training in psychology. PsyD psychologists have the same training as those with a Ph.D., but there is less emphasis on research and experimental methods. Most states require one to two years of supervised experience after graduation to be fully licensed to practice. In most states, psychologists do not have prescribing privileges.
  • Counselors: Licensed counselors typically have two to three years of graduate training in counseling methods. Specialty areas include marriage and family counseling, school counseling, community counseling, and substance abuse counseling. Many states require counselors to be licensed by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), which can grant the title of National Certified Counselor.
  • Social Workers, LCSW; Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) have approximately two years of graduate training in therapy, as well as completion of an internship and supervised experience in the field. Other social workers may have a Master's degree in social work as well as supervised clinical experience.
  • Advanced Psychiatric Nurses; Advanced psychiatric nurses hold a Master's degree or higher in psychiatric-mental health nursing. These professionals are able to assess patients, diagnose disorders, provide psychotherapy and prescribe medications in some states. Advanced psychiatric nurses work as clinical nurse specialists or nurse practitioners and work in diverse settings including hospitals, private clinics, mental health settings, emergency psychiatric settings, and substance abuse treatment centers.

​When seeking treatment for a mental illness or disorder, consider your needs. Your primary care physician can help you determine what kind of mental health professional you need and can give you a referral.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational outlook handbook. Physicians and surgeons.

  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational outlook handbook. How to become a psychologist.

  3. U.S. Bureau of Statistics. Occupational outlook handbook. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors.

  4. U.S. Bureau of Statistics. Occupational outlook handbook. How to become a social worker.

  5. American Psychiatric Nurses Association. FAQs about advanced practice psychiatric nurses.

Additional Reading
  • Mental Health America. Types of Mental Health Professionals.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."