There are many types of professionals who provide therapy and medication for trauma issues. Mental health providers can have different training, credentials, or licenses. The information below reviews the most common types of therapists and explains their education, training, and general approach to treatment.
If you are looking for a particular type of treatment (like medication prescriptions) or expert focus, the license of the therapist can be important. But, having a good relationship with your therapist is also very important for making progress in therapy.
Clinical psychologists focus on mental health assessment (or diagnosis) and treatment. Licensed psychologists have doctoral degrees (PhD, PsyD, EdD). Their graduate training is in clinical, counseling, or school psychology. In addition to their graduate study, licensed psychologists must have another 1 to 2 years of supervised clinical experience. Psychologists have the title of "doctor," but in most states they cannot prescribe medicine.
The purpose of social work is to enhance human well-being. Social workers help meet the basic human needs of all people. They help people manage the forces around them that contribute to problems in living. Certified social workers have a master's degree or doctoral degree in social work (MSW, DSW, or PhD).
Master's Level Clinicians have a master's degree in counseling, psychology, or marriage and family therapy (MA, MFT). They have at least 2 years of training beyond the 4-year college degree. To be licensed, master's level clinicians must meet requirements that vary by state.
Psychiatrists have a Doctor of Medicine degree (MD). After they complete 4 years of medical school, they must have 3 to 4 years of residency training. Board certified psychiatrists have also passed written and oral exams given by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Since they are medical doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medicine. Some also provide psychotherapy.
There are more types of therapists and counselors who are qualified to treat trauma issues. Psychology Today offers additional information. For a more complete list of types of mental health professionals, go to their glossary of professionals.*
The National Center for PTSD does not provide direct clinical care, individual referrals or benefits information.
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Last updated October 31, 2013