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Mental Health Specialists: Who does what?


Mental wellbeing

There are a variety of different types of mental health professionals out there and it can be confusing to at times to know who provides what kind of support.

This article aims to give you an overview of some of the different mental health professions and what they are best suited for.

A psychologist is a specialist who has a relevant psychology degree from an accredited curriculum at a university.
Through their sessions psychologists’ main aim is to provide advice to the person regarding any psychological issues, for example self-esteem problems, analyzing relationships, dealing with assertiveness, etc. Psychologists can deal with mental health disorders, stress and anxiety.
A psychologist is not a medical doctor and does not prescribe medication.

A psychiatrist is a doctor who, in addition to basic medical training, has passed the relevant psychiatric residency.
Their main aim is to determine if a mental disorder is present, diagnose it and treat it with medication if the situation requires it. In order to do so, they usually conduct a clinical interview to get the patient’s medical history and may ask for tests to be conducted to determine the level of specific symptoms. Additionally, they deal with rehabilitation and prevention.

Psychotherapists usually have finished their education in psychology or psychiatry, and have additionally completed a comprehensive specialized training in their respective field of therapy for example cognitive behavioral therapy, family psychotherapy, psychodynamic therapy, etc.
In selecting a psychotherapist, it’s recommended to know their specialty to understand how and with what they could help.

Clinical psychologist
A clinical psychologist has a relevant psychology degree and additional training in clinical psychology, which includes making a diagnosis and putting together a treatment plan with a medical doctor.
This specialist mainly deals with helping medical doctors in assessing, mitigating, treating and preventing mental and behavioural disorders, disability and at risk behaviours. This specialist is suited to identify if a person is suffering under mental illness by overseeing relevant tests and studies.
The term ‘clinical’ in this specialist’s name refers to the fact that the psychologist mostly deals with patients who have been diagnosed with a disorder. Patients need a referral from a psychiatrist to see a clinical psychologist.
A clinical psychologist is not a doctor with a medical degree, so they don’t have a licence to prescribe medications.

A counsellor in a work environment is someone who has an educational background as a psychologist, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, social worker or similar, that gives the specialist skills for professional counselling. In general, counselling is a short term process that is focusing on a specific question or problem.

Supervisors assist their clients in reviewing and reflecting on work that has already been done, to better learn from the past so as to achieve more success in the future. Real-life cases are used during supervision to analyse and see how things could be played out. Supervision can be, depending on the need and situation, an individual effort or group work – even including a whole team. Supervision service is used mainly by managers and specialists who work in areas such as, but not limited to, social work, schools, mental health, law enforcement, etc.

A coach is most suited to help you unravel your professional or personal potential and guides you in dealing with setting goals and the motivation to reach them. Coaches don’t provide you with ready made solutions, instead, they assist you in finding out what the right path might be for you.


Reading the different descriptions, you might rightly get the impression that multiple specialists can be approached for similar issues.

If you have already selected a specialist, it doesn’t mean you have to exclude other professions. Mental health is a comprehensive system. Whilst visiting a psychologist to deal with problems related to the past, you can at the same consult with a workplace counsellor about a specific issue or approach a coach to discuss future goals.

Try to openly share your thoughts and questions while talking with a professional – if they aren’t the right person to assist you, then they can direct you to a more suitable specialist.

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