Types of Mental Health Professionals

The field of mental health is incredibly wide and varied. All professionals within this field, however, focus on helping people experience excellent psychological well being. Often, this has to do with overcoming a particular difficulty in a person’s life. Mental health professionals also work in a variety of settings, including clinical settings, home settings, educational establishments, and more. So what are the types of mental health professionals? Because there is such a wide variety, it is generally better to separate them according to their area of practice. Do bear in mind that some of these professions could be categorized in multiple areas.

1. Those Who Prescribe Medication and Monitor Progress

Within this category of mental health professionals, who also diagnose, provide therapy, and assess, you will find:

  • Primary care physicians, who are the first professionals people often turn to when they have a mental health issue. These physicians have some mental heath training and are able to prescribe medication, such as antidepressants, as well as make referrals to other services. They also monitor the progress of their patients.
  • Psychiatrists, who are licensed with the American Medical Association to diagnose mental illnesses and to prescribe medication for the management of such disorders. They also provide therapy and counseling. Some specialize in specific fields of psychiatry, such as geriatric populations, substance abuse, or children and adolescents.
  • Mental health nurse practitioners, who are advanced practice nurses who can diagnose, assess, and treat people with certain mental health conditions. Depending on the state, they can work independently or under the supervision of a psychiatrist.
  • Psychiatric pharmacists, who work as part of a multidisciplinary team to ensure that people who require pharmaceutical treatment for a mental health disorder, receive the best possible treatment and can expect the right outcomes. There is a strong link to addiction within this role, as many psychiatric mediation options have a high potential for abuse.

2. Those Who Provide Therapy and Assessment

Those who provide therapy and assessment usually focus on talking with patients. They offer them guidance and steer them towards making decisions that improve their overall well-being. In some cases, they can also diagnose a specific mental illness. These professionals include:

  • Clinical psychologists, who work with groups and individuals to help them improve on mental health outcomes. They often offer cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), dialectal behavior therapy, and interventions.
  • School psychologists, who work within educational establishments to address learning and behavioral difficulties in students. They often evaluate special educational needs to develop plans specifically to improve outcomes for those students. However, they can also offer counseling for children who experience any other difficulty, with their teachers, their peers, or at home.
  • Clinical social workers, who diagnose individuals and groups and provide them with counseling, advocacy, and case management. They can work in private practices, clinics, hospitals, or for the government. If they work independently, they must be licensed according to the rules of their state.
  • Counselors, who usually focus on a specific area of mental health. As a result, there are many sub-specializations, although drug and alcohol counseling and marriage and family therapy are two of the most popular ones.
  • Pastoral counselors, who provide people guidance and advice based on their personal faith. They must be registered with the Association of Pastoral Counselors. For those who are chaplains, they will also have received training through the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc..
  • Peer specialists, who are people who have experienced certain mental health issues themselves and who have learned to overcome them. Often, they have gone through substance abuse disorders. They have been trained in providing peer support to those going through similar issues themselves.
  • Other psychologists, who come in a variety of specializations (behavior, sports, industrial-organizational, and so on) and offer counseling and therapeutic services to those within their chosen specialization.

3. Those Who Conduct Research

A lot of professions within the world of mental health have to complete a doctorate degree. Once they are educated to that level, they can also become involved in research. Many, therefore, consider developing new behavioral therapies and theories, treatment models, and more. They spend a considerable amount of time working with animal and human research participants, as well as with other medical professionals, particularly neurologists, in order to determine how the brain works.

4. Those Who Teach

Lastly, mental health professionals can use their skills in mental health training, assessment, and other forms of knowledge in order to teach the next generation of mental health professionals. Not all would be interested in reaching this level. However, it all depends on personal interests. As such, options include:

  • Special educational needs teachers, who work specifically with children who have learning, developmental, and/or behavioral difficulties.
  • Teachers and trainers at vocational schools, who provide students with an insight into mental health professions.
  • Academia and faculty staff, who teach at university level to train the next generation of doctors, nurses, psychologists, and counselors. To take on this position, they must have completed a doctorate degree.

As you can see, there is a lot of variety out there when it comes to mental health professionals, and this is something to be aware of whether you are looking at becoming a mental health professional, or whether you require their skills to help you through one of life’s difficulties. Interestingly, a mental health professional could help you with both of these issues. For instance, you could see your primary care physician in order to determine whether you may need some help, or you could visit a careers guidance counselor if you are trying to determine what you would like to study to become a mental health professional yourself.

References

Veranda Charleston
Written by Veranda Charleston
Veranda is HealthGrad.com's Mental Health category guide. Veranda received her Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern State University of Louisiana. She has more than five years of experience as a trained mental health professional.

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