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Finding the Best Depression Treatment

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Finding a Therapist for Depression: A Guide

Medically Reviewed By Bethany Juby, PsyD

Many therapy styles and therapists can treat depression, but each offers support in different ways. Options include psychiatrists and psychologists, mental health nurses, and counselors. The type of treatment a therapist offers will depend on their qualifications and experience, and which state you are in.

As a result, it can be difficult to know which type of therapist may be the right fit for your condition and needs.

Read on to learn more about the differences between therapists for depression, including the type of help they can offer.

Psychologists or clinical psychologists (PhD, PsyD, EdD)

Two adults sit in armchairs while one writes in a notebook.
Sladic/Getty Images

Psychologists study the mind and human behavior.

Clinical psychologists are psychologists who can treat people. They have a doctorate in psychology and a license to practice in some states. Clinical psychologists must complete 4–6 years of full-time study to earn a doctoral degree.

If you contact a psychologist for depression symptoms, they can help diagnose your condition by using psychological tests and treat it with psychotherapy.

However, clinical psychologists cannot prescribe medication or medical procedures without extra training.

Learn more about psychotherapy, including its types and differences to counseling and psychology.

Psychiatrists (MD, DO)

Psychiatrists are medical doctors with 4 years of extra training in treating mental health conditions. They generally approach mental health conditions from a medical perspective, focusing on treating the physical and mental symptoms.

Some psychiatrists are also board certified, meaning they have passed an extra exam by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology or the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry.

Psychiatrists can offer psychotherapy as well as prescribe medication and medical procedures.

Read more about depression treatment options.

Psychiatric mental health nurse

These nurses have various types of degrees, from registered nurse (RN) to doctor of nursing science (DNSc).

Depending on their education, psychiatric mental health nurses may offer psychotherapy and other mental health support. In some states, they can also prescribe medication. 

You may see the letters “RN,” “BSN,” “MSN,” “APRN,” “PhD,” or “DNSc” used to signify someone is a psychiatric mental health nurse.

Some nurses have extra specialized training in mental health issues and an advanced nursing degree. These nurses are known as psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners and are signified with the letters “PMHNP” after their names.

Licensed professional counselors (MA, MS)

Licensed professional counselors (LPC) have at least a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or another mental health specialty. Some states also require further training to become qualified as an LPC, such as supervised clinical experience or ongoing training.

Working with an LPC may not involve psychotherapy, and LPCs cannot prescribe medical treatments. Instead, they may listen to your experiences and help you to find solutions or build helpful behaviors.

While approaches such as psychotherapy and medication can help treat depression, counseling can offer advice that helps you manage depression symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Licensed social workers (LCSW, LICSW)

Licensed social workers can help diagnose mental health conditions and offer counseling or talk therapy. They can also provide other forms of support, such as family counseling.

Some social workers may have extra training and certification in clinical or mental health social work.

How to choose

Psychotherapy is most effective when you feel comfortable with your therapist. The best therapy type and therapist can vary per person, and finding the right fit may take time or trial and error.

If you need help choosing what kind of therapist to talk with, consider contacting a few different therapists to ask questions. This may help you understand what they are like and what help they can provide.

A mental health nurse, counselor, or social worker can also help you determine what you need from therapy and what approach may help you best.

After your first appointment with a therapist, consider whether you’d like to work with this person. If not, consider looking for someone else. You might also want to consider how easy it is to make appointments that fit your schedule.

You may be more likely to be consistent and follow through with depression treatment if the therapist is accessible.

Read more about depression recovery and management.

Summary

The type of help therapists can offer for depression can vary by qualification and state.

Generally, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists have more training in medicine and mental health. They may offer psychotherapy, medication prescriptions, and other medical procedures.

Counselors, mental health nurses, and social workers may also be able to offer psychotherapy and further support for managing depression.

Talk with a doctor or licensed mental health professional for guidance on what kind of help may work for you.

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Medical Reviewer: Bethany Juby, PsyD
Last Review Date: 2024 Apr 17
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.