Mental Health Providers
A psychiatrist is a Medical Doctor (MD). They have attended medical school, completed a psychiatric residency, and passed the required board exams and possess a license to practice medicine in the state they practice. They may provide medication management for mental health diagnoses (depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.) and talk therapy with whatever population they specialize (child, adolescent, adult, geriatric, etc.). This profession can legally diagnose a mental health disorder/condition. This profession has both legal and ethical guidelines.
Psychologists have a terminal degree (which means that’s as far as one can go in that discipline) such as a PhD or a PsyD. A PhD is the traditional degree for psychologists, however the PsyD is a newer terminal degree that is more clinically focused, whereas the PhD is more research concentrated. Psychologists may provide therapy (talk therapy) to a variety of client populations, based on their education and training. Some work in the school setting as well (school psychologists). Psychologists have advanced training in psychological testing such as personality assessments, intelligence testing, and testing for learning disorders. They too can diagnose a mental health disorder/condition. Psychologists must be licensed in the state in which they provide care. This profession has both legal and ethical guidelines.
Counselors/Therapists and Social Workers
Professional Counselors and Marriage and Family Counselors, as well as Social Workers have a Master Level degree in their respective disciplines (MS or MA). Professional Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists typically provide talk therapy in the form of individual, child, couples, and family counseling to clients on either an inpatient or outpatient basis. Social Workers are technically able to provide therapy services; however, their training is more specific to case management and resource utilization. All credentials can diagnose mental health disorders/conditions. Counselors and Marriage and Family therapists must be licensed to practice in the state they provide services. Social workers may be licensed, but not all jobs require licensure such as hospitals in which they work under the guide of a psychiatrist. These professions have both legal and ethical guidelines. The credentials at the end of their names are LPC-Licensed Professional Counselor, LMFT, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, LCSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Currently, Life Coaching is an unregulated profession. This means there are not currently standardized legal, educational, or ethical governing their practice. The popularity and applicability of life coaching has grown in recent years, however without licensure requirements, be sure to ask your provider about their specific certifications and experience.