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What to Expect

Differences Among our Mental Health Professionals

When you begin your journey to better mental health, you may see one or more of the different kinds of clinicians below. We know it can be overwhleming at first - so we have compiled information about each of them to help you understand the roles they play on your path to hope, healing and recovery.  

Psychotherapist is a broad term used to describe a variety of mental health professionals/counselors that work with clients to help them to build skills to better manage emotional and behavioral issues that are impacting their lives. Psychotherapists include licensed clinical social workers, licensed clinical professional counselors and psychologists. Typically, psychotherapists are not licensed to prescribe medications and often work in conjunction with psychiatrists and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-C) is a counselor with a masters degree in social work with a specialization in clinical practice. An LCSW-C is not licensed to prescribe medication.

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) is a counselor with a masters degree in psychology, counseling or a related field. An LCPC is not licensed to prescribe medication.

Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (CADAC) is a counselor with specific clinical training in alcohol and drug abuse. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling. A CADAC is not licensed to prescribe medication.

Pastoral Counselor is a member of the clergy that provides confidential, professional services for individuals, couples, and families in a spiritual, faith-oriented setting while integrating the methods of behavioral sciences. A pastoral counselor is not licensed to prescribe medication.

Psychologists hold a doctoral degree in psychology (PsyD) or philosophy (PhD). They specialize in the science of emotions, thoughts and behaviors. In the state of Maryland, psychologists do not prescribe medication.

Nurse Practitioner is a registered nurse who has earned a graduate or doctorate degree in the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional illnesses. Depending on their training they may be a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner (CRNP) or a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). A doctorate level nurse practitioner holds a Doctorate of Nurse Practice (DNP). Nurse practitioners  may prescribe medication.

Psychiatrist is a doctor of medicine (MD) or of osteopathic medicine (DO) who is devoted to the diagnosis, prevention, treatment and study of mental health disorders. Psychiatrists evaluate patients to determine if their symptoms may be caused by a physical illness, combination of physical and mental health illness or specifically psychiatric in nature. Psychiatrists may prescribe medication.

Source:  Mental Health America