One of the best things you can do for your mental health is seek professional help. However, it’s not always clear who does what.
With so many options for care, evolvedMD, your trusted partner in behavioral health, wanted to provide some clarity and guidance to help you get the help and support you need. How is a therapist different from a counselor? Isn’t a psychologist the only one qualified to help me? Who can prescribe medication?
Staffed with various types of behavioral health experts, we’re here to break it down for you.
What’s the difference between a counselor, therapist, and psychologist?
All three provide life-changing services and often possess similar skillsets, but there are a few key differences when it comes to providing patient care:
- Counselors typically offer short-term treatment plans providing coping, stress management, and general life skills. For example, if you struggle with stress form a job change or relationship difficulties, you will likely seek help from a counselor.
- Therapists typically offer long-term treatment plans to address mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. For example, if you struggle with excessive worry, ruminating thoughts, and loss of interest in things you love, you will likely seek help from a counselor.
- Psychologists, like therapists, typically offer long-term treatment plans to address mental illnesses, but often have more advanced degrees such as a PhD or a PsyD. In addition to providing patient services, they may work as faculty at universities conducting research.
Who can prescribe medication for mental illness?
Psychiatric medication is proven to significantly improve symptoms and can also help make other treatments, such as therapy, more effective. However, there is a common misunderstanding of who can and can’t prescribe medication:
- Psychiatrists, while qualified to provide psychotherapy, are primarily responsible for diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. With a medical degree, a psychiatrist has the authority to prescribe medication to treat the full spectrum of mental disorders.
- Counselors, therapists, and psychologists cannot prescribe medication. They are best qualified for talk therapy services in combination with medication prescribed by a psychiatrist.
Where do these types of mental health professionals work?
Each mental health professional works in similar settings, but often in separate locations:
- Counselors and therapists typically work in community settings such as family services, outpatient clinics, substance abuse centers, hospitals, and private practices.
- Psychologists may work in community settings such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation facilities, and private practices. However, they also commonly work in universities, research centers, government agencies, and in some cases, private businesses.
- Psychiatrists work in hospitals, private practices, nursing homes, prisons, research settings, and many other settings.
In most cases, you must seek each professional by yourself either through insurance, referral, internet research, or word-of-mouth. It can be confusing, exhausting, costly, and more likely to dissuade you from seeking the help you need.
Is there a more comprehensive and affordable approach to treatment?
With evolvedMD, you’ll receive comprehensive, whole-patient care at the place you trust most: your preferred primary care practice. Our unique approach to behavioral health is a collaborative effort employing all kinds of trained mental health professionals to deliver exceptional care. The best part is, you’ll receive physical and mental health services all in one place.
Today, we’re going to break it down to help you understand how each type of mental health professional fits into our enhanced Psychiatric Collaborative Care Model.
Behavioral Health Manager
Who are they: Counselors, social workers, marriage and family therapists, etc., who provide talk therapy services.
Licensure: Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW); Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW); Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC); Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC); Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (LAMFT)
What do they do: These licensed masters level and independently licensed clinicians see patients onsite and in person as a member of a collaborative team led by the patient’s primary care provider, providing assessment and treatment for patients. While counselors, therapists, and social workers each have specialized training and work differently in traditional mental health settings, all Behavioral Health Managers at evolvedMD, regardless of licensure or training, provide similar patient services.
Who are they: They specialize in treating mental health issues and diagnosable disorders by prescribing and managing medication.
Licensure: Physician’s Assistant-Certified (PA-C); Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
What do they do: In partnership with Ascend Healthcare Inc. these credentialed psychiatrists coordinate with the Behavioral Health Manager and the patient’s primary care provider to recommend or manage psychiatric medication. If the primary care provider prefers not to prescribe medication, then Ascend Healthcare or other external psychiatric providers we partner with can.
Who are they: Independently licensed and trained clinicians who provide weekly clinical supervision
Licensure: Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW); Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC); Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
What do they do: These independently licensed clinicians provide clinical supervision to both associate and independently licensed Behavioral Health Managers. This includes development of skills, treatment plan guidance, documentation feedback, and continuing education opportunities.
Who are they: Unique to our model, these professionals maintain close communication with Behavioral Health Managers to drive improved outcomes.
Licensure: Care Coordinators do not need licensure, but require at least a Bachelor’s degree.
What do they do: Complete patient referrals to external community resources to best support patient care planning. Conducting phone-based outreach and providing patients with community resources relating to housing, food insecurity, and other social determinants of health, they take on various administrative needs that therapists traditionally handle in community settings, allowing Behavioral Health Managers more time to focus on in-session treatment.
Altogether, these professionals drive five key benefits for both patients and providers:
- Providing comprehensive, whole-body care
- Reducing stigma and negative attitudes
- Identifying and treating adverse mental health conditions before they become severe
- Reducing costs
- Increasing satisfaction
- Empowering providers to drive improved patient outcomes
- Streamlining communication and collaboration
- Providing upfront, ongoing support
- Promoting shared learning
- Improving well-being
Want to learn more about how these behavioral health experts
can drive impact at your primary care practice? Contact email@example.com.