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PTSD: National Center for PTSD

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Types of Therapists

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Types of Therapists

There are many types of professionals who provide evidence-based psychotherapy and medication to people who have experienced trauma. The information below reviews the most common types of licensed mental health providers and generally explains their education, training, and services offered.

Mental health professionals can have different training, credentials, or licenses. Providers can also offer different services, based upon their expertise. If you are looking for a particular type of treatment (like medications) or expert focus, the license and specialized training of the mental health provider is important. Your health insurance provider may also allow you to see only certain types of mental health providers. Check your policy for details.

Who is licensed to provide psychotherapy for PTSD?

The mental health professionals below provide psychotherapy for PTSD, and in most states, are not licensed to prescribe medications.

Psychologists

Licensed clinical psychologists focus on mental health assessment and treatment. They have a doctoral degree (e.g., PhD, PsyD, EdD) from 4 or more years of graduate training in clinical or counseling psychology. To be licensed to practice, psychologists must have another 1 to 2 years of supervised clinical experience. Psychologists have the title of "doctor" because of their doctoral degree, but in most states they cannot prescribe medicine.

Clinical Social Workers

The purpose of social work is to enhance human well-being by helping people meet basic human needs. Licensed social workers also focus on diagnosis and treatment, and specialize in areas such as mental health, aging, of family and children. Most licensed social workers have a master's degree from 2 years of graduate training (e.g., MSW) or a doctoral degree in social work (e.g., DSW or PhD).

Master's Level Clinicians

Master's level clinicians have a master's degree in counseling, psychology, or marriage and family therapy (e.g., MA, MFT). To be licensed to provide individual and/or group counseling, master's level clinicians must meet requirements that vary by state.

Who is licensed to provide medications for PTSD?

Working with a specialist who commonly sees patients with PTSD is ideal. However, in addition to the mental health providers listed below, primary care physicians, physician's assistants and nurse practitioners are usually qualified to prescribe medications for PTSD.

Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists have either a Doctor of Allopathic Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree in addition to specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems. Since they are medical doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medicine. Some may also provide psychotherapy.

Psychiatric Nurses or Nurse Practitioners

Psychiatric mental health nurses (PMHN) can have different levels of training. Most are registered nurses (RN) with additional training in psychiatry or psychology. Psychiatric mental health advanced practice registered nurses (PMH-APRN) have a graduate degree. Psychiatric nurse practitioners are registered nurse practitioners with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems. In most states, psychiatric nurses and psychiatric nurse practitioners can prescribe medicine.

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PTSD Information Voice Mail:
(802) 296-6300
ncptsd@va.gov
Also see: VA Mental Health