Some schools do not have a student health center or counseling center on campus, or you may prefer to seek treatment at a medical professional's office. If this is the case, you have a number of options for seeking treatment, depending on your needs.
Social workers can assess, treat, develop treatment plans, and provide case management for mental health problems. They typically work either independently or within clinics/service agencies, usually in collaboration with other healthcare professionals. They are not able to prescribe medication.
Licensed professional counselors have a master's degree in psychology, counseling or another mental health related fields. They generally have two years of post-graduate experience. They can assess, diagnose and treat mental health conditions. They are licensed by individual states and cannot prescribe medication.
Psychologists have a doctoral degree in a specific area, such as clinical, educational, or counseling psychology. They are licensed by the state and can provide psychological testing, evaluations, treat emotional and behavioral problems and mental disorders, and provide a variety of psychotherapeutic techniques. They are not able to prescribe medications.
Psychiatric/mental health nurses have a variety of degrees ranging from an associate's (R.N.) to bachelor's (B.S.N.) to master's (M.S.N. or A.P.R.N) to doctoral (D.N.Sc., Ph.D.). Since their qualifications vary, they offer a broad range of psychiatric and medical services, including the ability to assess and treat psychiatric illnesses. Depending on your state, they may be able to prescribe medication.
Psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNP) have a four-year college degree in nursing and also complete an approved masters of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP). PMHNPs can assess, diagnose, and prescribe medications. They are also equipped to provide therapy for psychiatric disorders or alcohol/drug abuse. They are licensed by the state and may be required to practice under a psychiatrist's supervision.
Psychiatrists are physicians with either an M.D. or D.O. degree, and can have a number of specialties including addictions, adolescents, etc. They are licensed physicians and can provide medical and psychiatric evaluations, treat psychiatric disorders, provide psychotherapy and prescribe medications. This is typically the most expensive option, but may prove necessary depending on the severity of your condition.
If you need help deciding what type of professional to see, a good place to start is your primary care doctor. Your doctor should be able to give you recommendations as to the type of professional to seek out, and may even be able to provide you with the name of a specific professional whom they know and trust.
Return to our "Mental Health" section for more information and help