Finding a Therapist to Treat Depression

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Getting help for depression is an important decision. It’s a big step on the road to recovery and feeling yourself again.

And if you’d like to try psychotherapy—or talk therapy—the next step is to choose a mental health provider who is right for you.


A Wide Range of Options

There are many types of mental health specialists who offer talk therapy for depression. Some only offer therapy, while others can also do testing and prescribe medicines, such as antidepressants. Many therapists are part of a group practice. This allows less-credentialed or less-experienced practitioners to manage cases yet benefit from immediate access to colleagues with greater qualifications. Here is a list of some common providers who offer talk therapy for depression, and the credentials to look for. 

  • Licensed Professional Counselors(MA, MS): These professionals have a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or another mental health specialty. In addition, they usually have at least two years of supervised clinical experience. They can diagnose mental health conditions and provide talk therapy. 

  • Licensed Social Worker(LCSW, LICSW): Social workers offer a range of services depending on their education and license. Master’s level licensed social workers can diagnose mental health conditions and offer talk therapy. 

  • Psychiatric Nurse or Mental Health Nurse(RN, BSN, MSN, APRN, PhD, DNSc): These nurses have various types of degrees, from Registered Nurse (RN) to Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc). Depending on their education, they may offer talk therapy and other mental health services. In some states, they can also prescribe medicine. 

  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner or Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP): These nurses have specialized training in treating mental health issues in addition to an advanced nursing degree. Some offer talk therapy and other mental health services. They are also able to prescribe medicine, although in some states they need to practice under a psychiatrist.  

  • Psychiatrist(MD, DO): Psychiatrists are medical doctors (physicians) who have four years of extra training in treating mental health conditions. Those who are board certified have passed an exam given by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology or the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry. In addition to providing talk therapy, psychiatrists can prescribe medicines and give psychological tests when needed. 

  • Psychologist or Clinical Psychologist(PhD, PsyD, EdD): Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology and are licensed in the state in which they practice. Psychologists cannot prescribe medicines, but they can give psychological tests and evaluations. They also provide talk therapy. Clinical psychology is a specialty within psychology that focuses on treating psychological, mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.

Choosing a Therapist

No matter which type of therapist you choose, make sure the therapist is licensed to practice. Before you make an appointment, call a few therapists and ask questions to get a feel for what they are like and how they work. You can ask about their experience treating depression and how long they have been practicing. If you want to use insurance, you should also make sure they accept your plan. 

After your first appointment, think about whether you’d like to work with this person. If not, look for someone else. Talk therapy is most helpful when you feel comfortable with your therapist. You might also want to consider how easily it is to make appointments that fit with your schedule. You’re more likely to be consistent and follow through with depression treatment if the therapist is accessible.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Feb 5
  1. Types of Mental Health Professionals. National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Treatment/Types-of-Mental-Health-Professionals
  2. About Social Workers. National Association of Social Workers. http://www.helpstartshere.org/about-social-workers
  3. What is a Psychiatry? American Psychiatric Association. http://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-psychiatry
  4. How to choose a psychologist. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/choose-therapist.aspx
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