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Does It Matter What Qualifications My Therapist Has?

Does It Matter What Qualifications My Therapist Has?

A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in mental health

If you live in San Diego and have never seen a mental health provider before, then you may not know how to find one who suits your specific needs. To learn several key points to keep in mind as you evaluate qualifications and find a good fit, seek reliable information, and then seek help.

Beyond the Degree: What the Letters Mean

Mental health providers are professionals who diagnose and treat mental health conditions. Most of them have either a master’s degree or special training, as evidenced by their licensure status. The services they offer depend upon their training and specialty; they can be generalists or they can specialize in certain areas, such as depression, substance abuse or family therapy. The settings in which they work range from private practices and hospitals to community agencies or other facilities.

As described by the Mayo Clinic, a handful of professions serve mental health needs and are licensed to treat clients in different ways. For example, a psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in mental health. Within this specialty, further subspecialties exist, such as care for children and adolescents, elderly people and addicts. Psychiatrists are equipped to perform the following functions:

  • Diagnose and treat mental health disorders
  • Provide psychological counseling, also called psychotherapy
  • Prescribe medication

A psychologist is trained in psychology, a science dealing with thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Typically, these professionals hold doctoral degrees (Ph.D., Psy.D., Ed.D.). Although a psychologist cannot prescribe medicine, she is allowed to perform many of the same jobs as a medical doctor, such as the following tasks:

  • Diagnose and treat mental health disorders, and provide psychological counseling in one-on-one or group settings
  • Work with other providers who can prescribe medication if needed

A third type of mental health provider is a psychiatric-mental health nurse. This kind of professional is usually a registered nurse with training in mental health issues. A psychiatric-mental health advanced practice registered nurse has at least a master’s degree in psychiatric-mental health nursing. Other types of advanced practice nurses able to provide mental health services, including a clinical nurse specialist, a certified nurse practitioner or a doctorate of nursing practice. Mental health nurses vary in the services they can offer, depending upon their education, level of training, experience and state law, but, generally speaking, they can assess, diagnose and treat mental illnesses. They are also able to prescribe medication, so San Diego residents can thrive in recovery if they seek one of these professionals.

Other types of mental health providers include the following list:

  • Physician assistant – A certified physician assistant who practices medicine under the supervision of a physician and who provides the full range of treatment for mental health disorders
  • Licensed clinical social worker – A licensed clinical social worker with training and experience in mental health, and who can provide assessment, psychological counseling and a range of other services, depending on his licensing and training. However, this professional cannot prescribe medication.
  • Licensed professional counselor – This professional has training required for a licensed professional counselor, and these qualifications vary by state. However, most of them have at least a master’s degree with clinical experience that enables them to provide diagnosis and psychological counseling (psychotherapy) for a range of concerns. San Diego residents can heal with the help of these workers.

If you live in San Diego and are in recovery from a substance abuse issue, then perhaps the most important qualification of all treatment professionals is specialized addiction training. Sometimes, what is more important than an actual degree is whether or not a mental health provider understands the ins and outs of breaking an addiction. With this kind of help, you can avoid relapse.

Finding a Good Fit

Researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse argue that a strong therapeutic alliance provides the foundation for a positive experience in therapy. That means San Diego residents need to find a good fit for their therapists. As you shop for a treatment professional, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Your concern or condition – Most mental health providers treat a range of conditions, but one with a specialized focus may be more suited to your needs. The more severe your symptoms or complex your diagnosis, the more expertise and training you need to look for in a mental health provider.
  • Your medication needs – Since some mental health providers are not licensed to prescribe medications, you may need to see more than one mental health provider. For example, you may need to see a psychiatrist to manage your medications and a psychologist or another mental health provider for counseling.
  • Your insurance coverage – Your insurance policy may have a list of mental health providers that are covered by your health insurance, but your policy may only allow for certain types of care from certain providers. Check ahead of time with your insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid plan to find out what types of mental health services are covered.

Find someone you can work with by paying close attention to your instincts on your first appointment. Notice how you feel when you are in the room, because a good therapist will help you to feel heard when you speak. Harvard University Health Services clinicians say that, ultimately, topnotch therapists also work themselves out of their jobs, as they want their patients to heal. In short, San Diego residents need to be getting better, which is a mark of a good therapist.

Help for San Diego Drug Addicts

If you or a San Diego loved one abuses drugs, then know that help is available. Admissions coordinators at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline can guide you to wellness. You never have to go back to a life of addiction if you call now.