The focus on mental health has never been higher, which means that there are now many resources available to help you. Those affected by mental health issues can and should get professional help in order to manage their illness. However, it's important to go to the correct professional as they do different things and help in different ways. Here are some of the different types of mental health professionals and their roles in your healing process.


A therapist or counselor is someone trained to help people with mental health problems. These are the professions so often seen in movies or television shows who talk to patients who sit on their couch. Therapists generally have at least a Master's degree in psychology, but they are not required to have a doctorate, though some do. Because therapists are not medical doctors, they are not able to prescribe medication. However, they can give you good advice and a safe place to express yourself. If, after talking with you, they may decide that you could benefit from medication at least temporarily. In this case, they will refer you to a psychiatrist. However, in many cases, your therapist may still want you to visit so that they can continue working with you.


A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating the brain. Mental health issues are usually connected with unbalanced levels of neurotransmitters. A psychiatrist may not have the time to sit down and talk for an hour. However, they can work with a therapist or psychologist to prescribe the best medication for the situation. There should be ongoing communication between your counselor and your psychiatrist to adjust medication as needed. If the medication isn't working properly, your psychiatrist will examine your reaction to make the proper alterations. Psychiatrists must get a Doctor of Medicine (MD).

Social Worker

Social workers are mental health professionals who work for state-run facilities at a low level. They typically only have a B.A. or B.S. in social work. Naturally, they can not prescribe medication either. They will help patients check in to a facility or check out when they have completed treatment. They will also get involved in situations where parents may be unstable and may need help for themselves and their children.

Psychiatric or Mental Health Nurse Practitioners

Sometimes, you don't necessarily want to go to a psychiatrist. A nurse can be more appropriate in a number of different situations. Luckily, there are nurses specifically trained to help patients with mental health conditions. A psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioner can provide a diagnosis of a patient. In some states, a nurse practitioner can even prescribe medication. Nurse practitioners require at least a Master of Science and the appropriate nurse license.

Mental health professionals work together to promote mental health in our communities and our homes. Of course, it's your responsibility to take the first step. If you don't know where to start, talk to your general practitioner about your concerns. They should be able to point you in the right direction.

Author's Bio: 

Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She studied at Colorado State University and now enjoys writing about health, business, and family. A mother of two wonderful children, she loves traveling with her family whenever she isn’t writing. You can find her on Twitter @anitaginsburg.