Types of therapists

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There are many different types of training and school involved in qualifying to work in the mental health field. These levels define the types of work that a provider is allowed to engage in; however, they are distinct from the theoretical orientations that a therapist might have. It should be noted that the term "therapist" is not exclusive to any one of the fields of psychology, psychotherapy, psychiatry, social work and mental health nursing. Many fields within therapy require advanced degrees and licensure in order to practice.

Professional credentials

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D.) specializing in the treatment of mental health problems.[1]

  • Psychiatrists are physicians who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and emotional disorders.[2] As Medical Doctors they are permitted to prescribe drugs to treat problems when appropriate. It should be noted that not all psychotherapists are psychiatrists, and not all psychiatrists are psychotherapists.

A psychologist has a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)[3] degree.

  • Not only does the field of psychology use research to assess the effectiveness of various forms of treatment, but also any particular psychologist trained in research should have acquired some solid skills useful for analyzing information and drawing conclusions in psychotherapy sessions.[4] It should be noted that not all psychotherapists are psychologists, and not all psychologists are psychotherapists. There are a number of subfields within psychology, with most therapists being clincal psychologists.

A person with an MSW (Master of Social Work) may have a graduate degree in methods of talk therapy.

  • This qualification is a minimum requirement in some states to provide mental health support. They may, however, be much more specialized in forms of therapy or problems addressed than a psychologist. It should be noted that not all psychotherapists are social workers, and not all social workers are psychotherapists.

Theoretical orientations

For a more detailed treatment, see psychotherapy.


  1. What is a Psychiatrist?. American Psychiatric Association.
  2. http://www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/counselling/psychologist_vs_psychiatrist.cfm
  3. Appreciating the PsyD: The Facts. Accessed April 30, 2007.
  4. Psychology and Psychiatry (and Psychoanalysis). Accessed April 30, 2007.

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