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Mental Health Care Providers: Tips for Finding One

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If you’ve never seen a mental health provider before, you may not know how to find one that suits your specific needs. When searching for a mental health provider, the following are some things to consider.

What Type of Mental Health Care Provider did you Need?

Mental health care providers are professionals who identify health conditions and provide treatment. Most have at most minuscule a master’s degree or more advanced education, training, and credentials. Make sure the professional you choose remains licensed to provide health services. Licensing and benefits depend on provider training, area of ​​specialty, and state law.

Below are some of the most mutual types of mental health care providers. Some may concentrate on specific areas, such as depression, substance abuse, or family therapy. In addition, they may work in various settings, such as private practice, hospitals, community agencies, or other facilities.



A psychiatrist is a doctor—a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy—who specializes in mental health. This type of doctor may have a subspecialty in areas such as child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatrics, and addictions. Psychiatrists can do the following

  • Diagnose and treat mental health disorders
  • Providing psychological therapy, also called “psychotherapy.”
  • Prescribe medications


A psychologist has training in psychology, a science that studies thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Psychologists typically have a Ph.D. (Ph.D., Psy.D., Ed.D.). A psychologist:

  • Can diagnose and treat many mental health illnesses and provide psychological therapy on a group or individual basis
  • You cannot prescribe medication unless you are licensed to do so
  • If needed, you can work with another provider who can prescribe medications

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Psychiatric Nursing Staff

Psychiatric nurses are registered nurses with training in health issues. A registered nurse with advanced practice in psychiatry has at least a master’s degree in psychiatric mental health nursing. Other advanced practice nurses who provide health services include clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse practitioners, or nurses with a doctorate in nursing.

Nursing staff specialized in mental health:

  • Offers a variety of services that may vary based on education, level of training, experience, and state laws
  • May assess, diagnose, and treat mental illness based on education, training, and experience
  • If allowed by state law, may prescribe medications for advanced practice nurses

Medical Associate

A certified medical associate practices medicine as a primary health care provider or collaborates with a physician. Physician associates may specialize in psychiatry. These medical associates can do the following:

  • Diagnose and treat mental health disorders
  • Providing advice on diagnoses, treatments, and prognosis, and providing education
  • Prescribe medications

What Factors Should you Consider?

Consider these factors when selecting among the various types of mental health care providers:

Your Concern or Condition

Most mental health care providers treat a variety of conditions, but one with a more specialized approach may be a better fit for your needs. For example, if you have an eating complaint, you may want to see a psychologist specializing in that area. If you’re having married problems, you may want to see a licensed marriage and family therapist. The more severe your symptoms or, the more complex your diagnosis, the more experienced and trained a health care provider you should seek.

If you Need Medication

Therapy or both. Some mental health care providers are not authorized to prescribe medications. Therefore, your choice will depend, in part, on the concern you have and the severity of your signs. You may want to see more than one mental fitness provider. For example, you may want to see a psychiatrist to achieve your medications and a psychologist or other health provider for therapy.

Your Health Insurance Coverage

Your insurance policy may have a specific list of health care providers that it covers, or it may only cover certain types of mental health care providers. Check with your insurance firm, Medicare, or Medicaid ahead of time to determine what kinds of health services are covered and your benefit limits.

How to Find a Mental Health Care Provider?

You have several options for finding a mental health care provider:

  • Request a list from your health insurance company of the providers it covers. Many insurance companies post a list of covered providers online.
  • Ask your primary care provider for a referral or recommendation.
  • Ask trusted friends, family members, or members of the clergy.
  • Find out if your company’s Employee Assistance Program or student health center deals with health facilities or ask for a recommendation.
  • Communication with a local or national mental organization, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, by phone or online.
  • Look online for professional associations with directories of health care providers, such as the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, or the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.
  • Look in the phone diary or online for categories such as numbers for community services, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, or social service organizations.

What Must I Look for in a Mental Health Care Provider?

When choosing a mental health care provider, keep the following in mind:

  • Education, training, certification, and years of experience; certification requirements vary significantly by state
  • Areas of specialization and also specific services offered
  • Treatment approaches and philosophy
  • What insurance companies do you work with?
  • Office hours, fees, and duration of sessions
  • Don’t hesitate to ask lots of questions. Finding the ideal provider for you is essential to creating a good bond and getting the most out of the treatment.


General mental health and psychogeriatric services are an integral part of primary care within Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT) and in VA nursing homes and home care facilities.

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