Who is a mental health professional and how do they differ? There are many different mental health professions. In the chart below I have listed a few. Please research what each profession requires for training and licensure and then describe the scope of the professions practice. profession Training/licensure Scope of Practice psychiatrist Clinical psychologist Counseling psychologist School psychologist Social worker Marriage and family therapist Psychiatric nurse counselor Psychotherapist or therapist

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The American Psychological Association (APA) is a great resource for finding out about the different paths to these various professions. In general, the group of professionals in this list include those who are trained to practice some form of psychotherapy. All psychologists must take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychologist (EPPP).

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who obtain an MD or DO (doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine, respectively). Training for psychiatrists focuses on the biological underpinning of mental illnesses in patients. What separates psychiatrists from psychologists is their ability to prescribe medications in addition to conducting talk therapy.

Clinical psychologist are required by most states to have a doctoral degree (a PhD, PsyD, or EdD), but select states allow people with master's degrees to call themselves "psychologists." Their education usually involves courses in human behavior, personality, research and statistics, psychotherapy, and assessment. A master's degree takes two years, and a doctoral degree takes four to six years and is followed by a one- or two-year internship. A clinical psychologist specifically works with patients who exhibit mental illness.

A counseling psychologist has all of the same qualifications, including training licensing, but counseling psychologists work with healthy patients to maintain wellbeing and may specialize in helping a client choose a new career, for example.

A school psychologist needs a state-level license and must earn a minimum of a master's degree. As part of licensure, school psychologists must undertake 1,200 hours of internship.

Social workers are required to earn a Masters of Social Work (MSW) or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) degree. The focus of their work is to connect individuals to support services in their community.

A Marriage and Family Therapist does not require a doctoral degree but requires a master's degree and a state-level or nationally-recognized license (administered by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Regulatory Board). Their focus is on maintaining healthy family relationships.

A psychiatric nurse is an RN (registered nurse) who has earned an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN). To become an RN, psychiatric nurses must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Finally, they must have 2,000 hours of experience in a psychiatric setting to become certified as a psychiatric or mental health nurse.

Psychotherapists include all types of psychologists. The term "psychotherapist" refers to all professionals who provide therapy for clients. Psychotherapists work only with patients rather than in research positions. Finally, they do not need to be licensed, and their undergraduate work (BA) does not need to be in psychology.

"Therapist" is an even broader term that simply means a professional who is trained to help individuals make decisions (including life coaches). Psychologists study human behavior, while therapists help patients make decisions regarding any number of facets of their lives, including career and relationships. Therapists do not need to be licensed, though they often hold certifications in their specific fields. In brief, a counselor requires a license, while a generic therapist does not. A psychologist (usually) requires a doctoral degree, but a nurse does not.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial