What are the different types of behavioral health professionals and what do they do?

WIthin the behavioral health profession, there are many different variations of people to garner support from who have similar, yet very different qualifications. Depending on your exact needs, you might need a certain variation of behavioral health professional. It is important to research the different professions to determine the best fit for you, as having the right fit will impact the success you experience. Below is a list of behavioral health professionals and an explanation of what you can expect from each professional.

Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor. After completing a Master’s program from an accredited program, a LCMHC is trained to conduct individual and group therapy using evidenced based practices, and provide diagnoses following criteria established by the DSM-V. These counselors can have a variety of specialties and can work with adults, children, families, couples, etc. You can find those in this profession in outpatient or inpatient settings, private practice, and in several other settings where a behavioral health professional is needed. These counselors support people in creating goals that are strength-based and help to empower them to make changes that will lead them towards a more fulfilled life.

Social Worker. These professionals have a Master’s degree in social work from an accredited program. Social workers can provide individual and group therapy, as well as make diagnoses following the DSM-V. They work in conjunction with the community as advocates and case managers. In working with both the individual and the community, social workers can evaluate and support the person in managing interpersonal and societal challenges, such as trauma, homelessness, or getting basic needs met. You can find social workers in clinical settings, such as hospitals, and in school settings.

Psychologist. There are many different types of psychologists, including clinical psychologists, school psychologists, and several others. Psychologists have advanced degrees from accredited programs. Psychologists who decide to engage in clinical practice (versus teaching in an academic placement or conducint research) are trained to make diagnoses through specialized diagnostic testing, provide counseling, and utilize their understanding of research to inform practice. Psychologists typically have doctorates; however,

Psychological Associates include individuals who graduate from psychology programs with their masters degree.

Psychiatrist. These professionals have completed an advanced medical program and are practicing medical doctors. Psychiatrists are the only professionals in this list that can prescribe medication and manage psychiatric conditions. They can also monitor progress by ordering lab work and other medical tests. Some psychiatrists will conduct individual therapy and prescribe medication, which is referred to “psychopharmacotherapy”.

All of the above professionals work together to provide individuals and the community with the best care possible. When all of these professionals work together they are providing what is called integrated care. Research has shown that successful outcomes increase when integrated care is utilized by professionals. When you are seeking out behavioral health support, be sure to notify the professional you talk to of any other supports you recieve or would like to receive.

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