Mental health services can be rendered by a variety of providers. Commonly, mental health services, such as therapy, are provided by clinicians such as psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and/or licensed professional clinical counselors. Psychiatric services are commonly provided by medical practitioners.
Psychiatrists have chosen to specialize in the branch of medicine focused on mental health. A psychiatrist treats patients by prescribing medication (if needed) and can provide psychotherapy (talk treatment) as well. Psychiatrists have an MD degree (Doctor of Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathy). They attend medical school (4 years) and complete specialty training in psychiatry (3 years for adult psychiatry and 2 more years for child/adolescent specialty). Look for a board-certified psychiatrist, this means they have passed specialized exams to show a specialty in this area.
A psychologist is qualified to administer and interpret neuropsychological or psychological tests and assessments that can help diagnose mental health conditions. They treat patients through psychotherapy (by talking with them) but they do not prescribe medication. They provide individual, group or family therapy. Psychologists have one of the following degrees: PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), or PsyD (Doctor of Psychology). They attend graduate school (4 to 6 years) and complete at least 2 to 3 additional years in specialized training. Look for a licensed psychologist who has passed national and state tests in the area.
Social workers treat patients with psychotherapy (by talking with them) and can provide individual, family, and group therapy. They may also provide case management and coordination of resources. Social Workers have the following degree: MSW. They go to graduate school for two years. To obtain Licensure (LCSW), they must complete a certain amount of additional supervised clinical hours, and receive a passing score on a national and state licensing examination.
Marriage and Family Therapist
Marriage and Family Therapists treat patients with psychotherapy (by talking with them) and can provide individual, group, and family therapy. Marriage and Family Therapists have the following degrees: MFT or MA. They go to graduate school for two years. To obtain Licensure (LMFT), they must complete a certain amount of additional supervised clinical hours, and receive a passing score on a state licensing examination.
Intern, Resident and Fellow
Provide services under the supervision of a Licensed Professional.
If your child expresses thoughts of wanting to harm themselves or others, call 9-1-1 or visit the nearest Emergency Department.
MHSA Suicide Prevention Line:
(877) 7CRISIS or (877) 727-4747
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Crisis Text Line:
Text “HOME” to 741741
Find a mental health provider
Check your insurance website or the back of your insurance card.
Explore Psychology Today’s “Find a Therapist” tool.
Call CalOptima Behavioral Health (Orange County, CA).