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Mental Health Care: Who's Who


An M.D. (doctor of medicine) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental disorders, and the only practitioner listed here who can prescribe medication. (Your child’s pediatrician can also write prescriptions, while some states additionally permit selected psychologists to order pharmaceutical treatment.) The psychiatrist diagnoses and prescribes medication and therapy. He may also refer the patient and/or family to others for ongoing talk therapy while he focuses on the medications.

Licensed Psychologist:

A counselor with a master’s degree or doctoral degree in psychology (Psy.D.), philosophy (Ph.D.) or education (Ed.D.). Trained to make diagnoses and conduct individual and group therapy. Only psychologists are able to administer many of the tests used to measure a young person’s intellect and psychological health.

All of the mental health counselors listed below are also trained to make diagnoses and provide individual and group counseling. What’s the difference, then? Their degrees and perhaps their area of specialty.

Clinical Social Worker:

Master’s degree in social work (M.S.W.); Licensed Clinical Social Workers (L.C.S.W.) have additional supervised training and clinical work experience.

Licensed Professional Counselor:

Master’s degree in psychology, counseling or a related field.

Mental Health Counselor:

Master’s degree and several years of supervised clinical work experience.

Marital and Family Therapist:

Master’s degree, with special education and training in marital and family therapy. May also have a doctorate degree.

Psychiatric Nurse:

Registered nurse (R.N.) with specialized training in psychological disorders.

Last Updated
Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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