Mental health care is not a one-stop shop.
There are many different specialists and roles within the field of mental health and psychiatry. Care may be provided by a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, or clinical social worker. At Harmony United Psychiatric Care, our team incudes specialists from all of these disciplines. So what are the differences between these roles, their qualifications, and the services they provide? Here’s an overview:
Roles and Services Separator Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist vs. Therapist Separator Site title
You may be wondering about the difference between psychiatry and psychology. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has specific training in diagnosing, treating and preventing mental illnesses. After graduating from medical school, psychiatrists complete four years of residency training in mental health where they learn to diagnose and treat different psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Psychiatrists also receive training in different psychotherapy modalities including cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and humanistic therapy.
In addition, a psychiatrist will receive further training in a specific area of interest, such as geriatric psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, addictions, or other areas. Some may then choose to specialize further by completing a fellowship in an area such as neuropsychiatry, geriatrics, adolescent psychiatry, or psychopharmacology.
Psychiatrists are qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of their patients’ health problems, and provide psychiatric medical care. Because they are physicians, psychiatrists can perform a full range of medical laboratory and psychological tests to formulate a patient’s diagnosis and treatment plan. When it comes to treatment, psychiatrists can prescribe medications to their patients as well as provide psychotherapy and counseling. They can also provide other treatments such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). More information about what psychiatrists do is available from the American Psychiatric Association.
A psychologist specializes in treating a wide range of mental health problems. Practicing clinical psychologists complete a doctorate degree in clinical psychology along with an internship followed by one to two years of supervised clinical experience.
Like psychiatrists, clinical psychologists utilize the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM) to diagnose individuals who have mental health concerns. They often use personality tests, behavioral assessments, clinical interviews, and IQ tests to understand and assess how an individual is functioning.
To treat their clients, a psychologist uses different forms of psychotherapy, also referred to as talk therapy or counseling. While there are many different styles of therapy, a psychologist will work with each individual to identify the best approach based on the person’s problem, unique characteristics, and therapy preferences.
Some common types of therapy are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBD), interpersonal, humanistic, and psychodynamic therapies. Some clinical psychologists are even trained to use hypnosis, which research has found to be effective for a wide range of conditions including pain, anxiety, and mood disorders. More information about services provided by psychologists is available from the American Psychological Association.
A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), commonly called a psychiatric nurse practitioner, has completed a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. A psychiatric nurse practitioner is a licensed RN with the ability to evaluate and treat individuals for mental health problems. An advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) earns a master’s or doctoral degree in psychiatric mental health nursing. The APRN is trained to diagnose patients, prescribe medications and provide psychotherapy to treat a full range of mental health disorders, from depression and anxiety to bipolar conditions, ADHD, and more.
Clinical social work is a specialty practice area of social work that focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness, emotional concerns, and behavioral problems. A clinical social worker has earned a master’s degree in social work and is licensed to practice social work. Clinical social workers have advanced knowledge of theory and practice related to the prevention and treatment of psychological and behavioral disorders. They are trained to provide their clients with psychotherapy and counseling and operate from a "person-in-environment" perspective, considering not only their individual clients but also the communities to which they belong, from family to work environments.
Harmony United Psychiatric Care’s extensive team of mental health specialists means you will receive the right care for your specific needs. Among our team of providers, we have professionals who specialize in specific areas of treatment, such as child and adolescent psychiatry, substance abuse, couples/marriage counseling, LGBTQ issues, grief counseling, trauma therapy, and more. When you call to schedule an appointment at one of our offices or through our telepsychiatry program, we will match you with the appropriate mental health practitioner who is qualified to treat your condition or concern. With our large team of practitioners, we can get you seen quickly, with your first appointment scheduled within 7 days.