Finding a Therapist to Treat Depression

Was this helpful?
Two women talking

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.

Was this helpful?
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.
  2. About Social Workers. National Association of Social Workers.
  3. What is a Psychiatry? American Psychiatric Association.
  4. How to choose a psychologist. American Psychological Association.
Explore Depression
Recommended Reading
Health Spotlight
Next Up
  • For most people depression is a mix of many factors, such as social, environmental and genetic causes.
  • Many people forget to ask important questions at their doctor's appointments. You may want to print or write these questions down before your appointment so you remember to get the answers you need.
  • You know that depression is dangerous for your mental health. But did you know it’s also dangerous for your physical health? Untreated or uncontrolled depression can take a big toll on you physically. 
  • Depression can hit at any time in your life. Often, the last thing you feel like doing is exercising, but studies show it can actually help you feel better.
  • Learn how, when and why doctors prescribe antidepressants and other depression medications.

  • Genetic testing to determine treatment, or pharmacogenomics, is a form of "personalized medicine" that uses genetic information to determine which medications will be most effective for an individual person. This could help find the best antidepressants for anxiety treatment and depression treatment.
  • If you live with depression, it's important to tell your doctor about any change in symptoms, particularly if you feel especially sad or hopeless, have become addicted to drugs or alcohol, or are having suicidal thoughts. Your doctor can begin or change your treatment to help you manage depression.
  • With your doctor's help, you can gradually step up the intensity of your treatment until you find the approach that works for you.
Answers to Your Health Questions
Trending Videos