A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in helping patients address mental health needs, including substance abuse and related disorders. Psychiatrists attend medical school and are trained in general medicine. After earning an MD, they complete four years of residency training in psychiatry. Psychiatrists can assess both the physical and mental components of psychological issues.
People seek the help of psychiatrists for a wide range of reasons, from long-term challenges such as feelings of sadness, anxiety or hopelessness, or anxiousness that can be debilitating—to issue that may come on suddenly, such as a panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, or hallucinations.
A psychologist is a mental health professional who usually earns a PhD or PsyD doctoral degree, which can take four to six years, followed by an internship that can last up to two years, and additional practical work. Psychologists treat a wide range of people of all ages, and can treat many kinds of mental health issues including long-term depression, anger and anxiety. They also help people when more episodic issues intrude on their lives or on their physical health, such as grappling with a loved one’s death or being overwhelmed by a new job.
Psychologists can help people learn to cope with stress, addiction or chronic illnesses. They are also trained to administer and interpret a number of tests and assessments to help diagnose conditions or understand a person’s mental state.
Social workers help individuals in need improve the quality of their lives and their well-being, by helping them address financial, behavioral, health, and social issues. There are four types of social work licenses in Texas, with most social workers in clinical settings working with a master’s level degree and some (as at UTMB) working with doctoral degrees.
Social workers help all types of people of all ages when they are in crisis. Social workers may help people struggling with issues such as poverty, medical problems, mental health problems, addiction, or learning disabilities. A licensed clinical social worker may offer counseling services to people in need. They also act as advocates for disadvantaged individuals, and connect these clients to resources and services that may benefit them.
Licensed professional counselors, sometimes called licensed clinical professional counselors or licensed mental health counselors, focus on mental, emotional, and behavioral issues in many types of clinical settings. These professionals work with families, individuals, groups, and couples in roles as that can range from substance abuse counseling, to psychoanalysis and learning disability counseling.
Licensed professional counselors have at least a master's degree in counseling or a related field, two years of supervised clinical experience, and must pass a credentialing exam to work in community health agencies, hospitals, and private practices.
Marriage and family therapists treat a wide range of serious clinical problems including depression, marital problems, anxiety, individual psychological problems, and child-parent problems.
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are mental health professionals trained at the graduate level in psychotherapy and family systems, with a minimum of two years of clinical experience. They are licensed by the state to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples and family systems.