What Kind of Mental Health Professional is Right for You?

When people need attention from a mental health provider, they are not always in the best place to evaluate different types of providers. But it is important to understand the differences in the approach, credentials, and training of different types of providers to maximize the benefits from care.

Three types of Mental Health Providers to Choose From



Perhaps the best known among mental health providers, a Psychiatrist is an M.D. with additional specialist training beyond medical school.

Candidates must complete a medical degree prior to performing a residency and receiving board certification in order to become a licensed Psychiatrist.  Once licensed, Psychiatrists must complete minimum continuing education requirement throughout their careers.

Psychiatrists can address the entire spectrum of mental health disorders and can offer both “talk” therapy and prescription medications.

Psychiatry embodies a very wide spectrum of treatment modalities, so it is advisable to discuss a particular practitioners focus and orientation prior to engaging them for long-term therapy.

At Centerway Behavioral Health, Dr. Erik Cantrell MD offer psychotherapy and psychopharmacology depending on which services best meet the needs of the patient. You can read more about Dr. Cantrell here.


Professional Counselors

A behavioral health counselor is a psychology professional who addresses mental health in a variety of settings, including group homes, private clinics, and rehabilitation centers. Licensing requirements for behavioral health counselors varies from state to state. Behavioral health counselors deal with mild-to-moderate mental health concerns and do not prescribe drugs.

The function of counselors overlaps with providers who are qualified as Psychotherapists, with the latter category often pertaining to licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) and marriage and family therapists (MFTs). Psychotherapists will often delve deeper into an individual’s childhood and emotional problem from the past.


Psychiatric Nurse (APRN)

An Advanced Practice Nurse holds an advanced degree in nursing and possesses a clinical nursing specialization. An APRN can provide counseling services similar to that of a mental health Counselor and can offer many of the same services as a Psychiatrist. At Centerway Behavioral Health, our APRN Lyn Lipat offers a full spectrum of psychiatric nurse services. You can read more about her experience and the conditions she regularly treats here.

Some research and insight into the focus of different mental health providers can help speed the process towards full recovery and mental well-being.