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When faced with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or other symptoms of the mind and brain, it can be difficult to know where to find the best care. In part, the challenge of finding the right professional for you stems from the highly variable manner in which mental health concerns can emerge.
One person’s depression, for example, may be very different than someone else’s, and the same can be said for anxiety, post-traumatic stress, obsessionality, attentional issues, substance use disorders, and even psychosis.
- There are also lots of different kinds of mental health providers out there doing all kinds of distinct clinical work. It can be intimidating to even know where to start searching for help, but often telling your primary care doctor about your symptoms, and if necessary asking for a referral to a specialist, is a good place to begin.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have graduated from medical school and completed at least four years of additional specialized training, through residency and often fellowship, in the medical treatment of mental disorders. Because of their advanced medical training, psychiatrists are able to prescribe medicine and also have at least basic training in most evidence-based psychotherapeutic approaches. Some choose to see patients for medication management only, while others focus on therapy, and still, others integrate both approaches into the same clinical sessions. Also, psychiatrists are generally the only mental health providers who can perform electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, or other neuromodulatory treatments that use devices to noninvasively stimulate the brain in severe or medication-resistant cases.
Therapists and counselors!
Many types of professionals can provide a variety of psychotherapeutic approaches used in the treatment of mental health disorders. Therapists who have obtained Ph.D. or Psy.D. degrees with a focus in clinical psychology, for example, have perhaps the most extensive training in providing talk therapy, including psychodynamic or “insight-oriented” therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and others.