Mental Health: Roles of Practitioners

Psychology is the study of the mind and the behaviors that we as humans participate in. This post will outline some of the types of individuals who work in the field. Below are the specific roles of some of these mental health workers.

Medical doctor: General Practitioner. These practitioners are the ones that most people will probably be familiar with. Many however may not know the role general practitioners have in supporting & treating mental heath issues. These practitioners can assess the physical and mental health issues an individual is suffering from. General Practitioners can provide physicals, brief cognitive assessment, prescribe medication, and recommend next steps or referrals. A general practitioner can be the first step in address the physical and mental health issues  effecting a persons social and occupational functioning. They also can be a good source of information for other professionals when looking to coordinate care. 

Psychiatrist: Is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health and mental illness. These specialists focus on diagnosis, prescribe medications, treatment plan, and monitor medication usage and effect. While a general medical doctor can prescribe medication they will typically refer to a psychiatrist when the mental health issue requires more in-depth diagnosis and support. Psychiatrists practice in various settings and contexts. These practitioners typically do not engage in frequent psychotherapy and typically meet less frequently with clients than some of the other providers listed below.

Psychologist: Practitioners in this area have earned a Ph.D or a Psy.D in the field of psychology. They have advanced training in mental health issues, clinical supervision, psychological assessment, psychological testing and interpretation, and also can provide regular psychotherapy services. Psychologist can have different specialties while offering their services in many different settings; hospital, outpatient clinic, private practice, schools, as well as can be employed by businesses. A psychologist can offer ongoing mental health care addressing the diagnosis and treatment plan for an individual. At this time they can not prescribe medication however they can make recommendations to psychiatrists and general medical doctors related to the symptoms and issues that a client is suffering from. They also work frequently with counselors and social workers in coordination of care.

Counselor: This individual has earned a Masters degree (M.A. or M.S.) in the field of Psychology. They can diagnosis and treat many different mental health issues. Many counselors narrow their general area of practice to focus on certain types of clients such as individual, marriage and family, Child/Adolescents, and others. These practitioners will traditionally also focus on specific issues that they treat most frequently; Anxiety, Depression, ADHD, Addiction, and others. Counselors will work with their clients creating treatment plans as well as provide therapeutic interventions. Counselors will typically see clients; weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly depending upon the clients treatment plan. Counselors do not prescribe medication or administer certain levels of psychological testing. For the clients that need these services, counselors will coordinate care with Social workers, General practitioners, Psychiatrists, Psychologist. Counselors may also work with social workers in order to provide comprehensive care to clients. 

Pharmacist: An individual in this role has earned a doctorate degree in Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) A Pharmacist will fill prescriptions, confirm orders are accurate, and can speak with an individual about the usage and effects of the medication. These practitioners have knowledge on the side effects and what a someone might expect when using the medication. They can answer questions on general health topics as well and suggest further recommendations based on an individuals needs.

Social Workers: Practitioners in this field are employed in a wide variety of contexts. Individuals who provide counseling will have have earned a Masters of Social Work. A minimum degree requirement of a BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) can qualify an individual for some entry level positions in the field. Social workers can address many issues that effect individual and families. As seen in other professions, social workers can focus on specifics areas of service; Family & School, Medical or Public Heath, and Mental heath or Substance abuse. For more infomation on social workers see Social Work

Understanding the types of practitioners in the field of Psychology can help when assessing, diagnosing, planning, treating, and supporting individuals whom are suffering from situations that effect their social and/or occupational functioning. For more information about these professions, use the links provided.