How to Choose a Mental Health Professional

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Navigating the complexities of the mental health practitioner marketplace can be daunting. If you’re not feeling well emotionally, you’re often already at a disadvantage with your level of concentration, motivation, and decision-making. And, even at your best, it’s not always easy to find the right person for your needs. How do you choose?
There are three main groups of mental health providers: psychiatrists, psychologists, and masters-level therapists. All three can provide psychotherapy or “talk therapy.” However, over the last few years, each have seemed to carve out distinct niches.

Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists are medical doctors and, as such, can prescribe medication. Some psychiatrists still provide medication management for patients and, at the same time, provide psychotherapy. This is more often seen in older psychiatrists and those in private practice. At our Counseling Center, I offer adult psychiatric evaluation and provide medication management for emotional illness including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. Any psychotherapy that might accompany the medication is left to the excellent group of therapists we have on staff.

Psychologists

Psychologists go to graduate school and receive either a PhD or, less commonly, a PsyD credential. Both are trained in talk therapy, but those with a PsyD stay on the clinical path, treating patients, while those with a PhD can continue on to an academic/teaching role. Both are also trained to do psychological and neuropsychological testing, which can be a great aid in clarifying diagnostic questions and better direct treatment. At our Counseling Center, we’re fortunate to have Dr. Elizabeth Jones, PsyD, on staff. Dr. Jones specializes in assessments for clarification of mental health diagnosis and learning disorders, cognitive and academic achievement assessments, assessment and treatment of PTSD, and chronic pain and other medical issues including ADHD, eating disorders, and coping with injury or illness.

Masters-level Therapists

There are multiple credentials for masters level therapists including Masters in Social Work (MSW), Masters in Counseling (MA, MS, or MEd), and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). These counselors have become the mainstay of talk therapy at our Counseling Center and represent a range of clinical backgrounds and areas of expertise. Each one of our counselors has a Master’s degree in their field and five or more years of counseling experience including multi-cultural lifestyles, work-life balance, relationships, and healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Knowing all this, choosing what is right for you might still be difficult. Here are a few things to consider. Do you enjoy talking, and do you find benefit from processing what’s going on with you and your life? Then talk therapy with one of our counselors will often be helpful. Some people prefer the additional educational level of a PsyD and might start by visiting Dr. Jones. Many individuals will start with psychotherapy and then, upon the suggestion of the therapist, be referred to me if medications are deemed appropriate. They can also refer to Dr. Jones if diagnostic clarification or testing is necessary.

I often see people for whom psychotherapy was not helpful or those who prefer a more “medical” approach (i.e. taking a pill). For many mental health disorders, either approach can give good results as both have been proven to change brain chemistry for the better. However, if people are more seriously ill with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or psychosis (loss of reality), medications are usually recommended as the first line of treatment.

The good news about this complex web of services, credentials, and expertise is that you can find it all at the PRO Medical Counseling Center. Integration like this is the gold standard in care. We’re able to conveniently provide all of the mental health needs you or a loved one may require in one place to make it as easy as possible for you.

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