PTSD: National Center for PTSD
Types of Therapists
Types of Therapists
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If you are starting PTSD treatment or want to try something new, you have options. Some mental health providers offer talk therapy and others prescribe medication. There are also some who can do both for PTSD treatment. Learn about the different training for mental health providers who treat PTSD.
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There are many types of professionals who provide evidence-based psychotherapy and medication to people who have experienced trauma. The information below reviews the most common types of licensed mental health providers—also called psychiatric care providers—and generally explains their education, training, and services offered.
Mental health professionals can have different training, credentials, or licenses. Providers can also offer different services, based upon their expertise. If you are looking for a particular type of treatment (like medications) or expert focus, the license and specialized training of the mental health provider is important. Your health insurance provider may also allow you to see only certain types of mental health professionals. Check your policy for details.
Who Is Licensed to Provide Psychotherapy for PTSD?
The mental health professionals below provide psychotherapy for PTSD, and in most states, are not licensed to prescribe medications.
Licensed clinical psychologists focus on mental health assessment and treatment. They have a doctoral degree (e.g., PhD, PsyD, EdD) from 4 or more years of graduate training in clinical or counseling psychology. To be licensed to practice, psychologists must have another 1 to 2 years of supervised clinical experience. Psychologists have the title of "doctor" because of their doctoral degree, but in most states they cannot prescribe medicine.
Clinical social workers
The purpose of social work is to enhance human well-being by helping people meet basic human needs. Licensed social workers also focus on diagnosis and treatment, and specialize in areas such as mental health, aging, of family and children. Most licensed social workers have a master's degree from 2 years of graduate training (e.g., MSW) or a doctoral degree in social work (e.g., DSW or PhD).
Licensed professional mental health counselors
Mental health professionals who obtain a master's degree in counseling, psychology, or marriage and family therapy may be licensed to provide individual and/or group counseling. These counselors must meet requirements that vary by state. Some examples include:
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
Who Is Licensed to Provide Medications for PTSD?
Working with a specialist who commonly sees patients with PTSD is ideal. However, in addition to the mental health providers listed below, primary care physicians, physician's assistants and mental health clinical pharmacy specialists are usually qualified to prescribe medications for PTSD.
Psychiatrists have either a Doctor of Allopathic Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree in addition to specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems. Since they are medical doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medicine. Some may also provide psychotherapy.
Psychiatric nurses or nurse practitioners
Psychiatric mental health nurses (PMHN) can have different levels of training. Most are registered nurses (RN) with additional training in psychiatry or psychology. Psychiatric mental health advanced practice registered nurses (PMH-APRN) have a graduate degree. Psychiatric nurse practitioners are registered nurse practitioners with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems. In most states, psychiatric nurses and psychiatric nurse practitioners can prescribe medicine.