Types of therapists

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There are many different levels of training and school involved in qualifying to work in the metal health field. These levels define the types of therapy a provider is allowed to engage in.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor specializing in the treatment of mental problems.[1]

  • Psychiatrists are physicians who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and emotional disorders. [1] As Medical Doctors they are permitted to prescribe drugs to treat problems when appropriate.

A psychologist has a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)[2] 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.[3]

A person with an MSW (Master of Social Work) has a graduate degree in methods of talk therapy, and 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.

In some places, the field is unregulated, and anyone can hang out a shingle and claim to provide mental health care.[4]


  1. "a psychiatrist specializes in the medical treatment of biological problems in the brain. Because early practitioners of psychology were all psychiatrists, that is, medical doctors, people confuse today's psychologists (who primarily do therapy) with today's psychiatrists (who primarily prescribe medication)." Degrees in Psychology: How are a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist Different? Accessed April 30, 2007.
  2. Appreciating the PsyD: The Facts. Accessed April 30, 2007.
  3. Psychology and Psychiatry (and Psychoanalysis). Accessed April 30, 2007.
  4. Of course, a psychiatrist is still the only one allowed to prescribe drugs.

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