Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Counselors

Psychologists earn credentials as doctors of psychology as represented by the letters PsyD or PhD; psychologists typically focus on one of four main areas: counseling , school , industrial-organizational and clinical . Counseling psychologists assist clients with problems of everyday living, including career or work problems and problems faced in different stages of life; school psychologists work with students in early childhood and elementary and secondary schools by collaborating with teachers, parents, and school personnel to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments for all students. School psychologists address students’ learning and behavioral problems, suggest improvements to classroom management strategies or parenting techniques, and evaluate students with disabilities and gifted and talented students to help determine the best way to educate them; i ndustrial-organizational psychologists apply psychological principles and research methods to the workplace in the interest of improving productivity and the quality of work life; clinical psychologists provide psychotherapy and address the impact of earlier experiences on clients’ present circumstances; they often consult with other medical providers regarding treatment for clients, especially treatment that includes medication. Unlike psychiatrists, clinical psychologists generally do not prescribe medication, however, Oregon is considering extending prescribing privileges to psychologists who pursue additional training. More typically, clinical psychologists focus on providing psychotherapy and consult with family doctors, internists and psychiatrists when clients require medications.

Psychiatrists earn credentials as medical doctors as represented by the letters MD which follow their name; they usually treat mental illnesses through medication, and hospitalization when necessary. Some psychiatrists conduct psychotherapy based upon education and training during their residency. When prescribed medications work well, they help balance neurotransmitters in the brain that cause emotional problems. Although not common, some psychiatrists also pursue doctoral degrees in psychology—the education and training to work on underlying life experiences that contribute to emotional difficulties and mental illness.

Social workers earn bachelor degrees in social work as represented by the initials BSW which follow their name. Many socials workers complete a Master's program (usually two years beyond a bachelor degree) leading to the Master of Social Work degree (MSW) . Social workers often work in settings to provide a continuity between settings. For instance, hospitals hire social workers in planning transitions between hospitalization, convalescent treatment and home services. Social workers also work in agencies that protect those who need advocates such as children and older individuals who struggle in making their ways safely through life. Social workers help people in their relationships with others; address clients’ personal, family, and community problems; and help clients grow and develop so they better cope with and can shape the social and environmental forces affecting their daily life. Social workers often assist clients facing a life-threatening disease or a social problem requiring immediate solutions such as inadequate housing, unemployment, lack of job skills, financial distress, serious illness or disability, substance abuse or an unexpected crisis. They also assist families that have serious conflicts, including those involving child or spousal abuse.

Mental health counselors typically earn a Masters degree (usually two years beyond a bachelor degree) in psychology ( MS ), social work ( MSW ), counseling ( MA or MS ) or marriage and family ( MA or MS ). Their licensing agencies identify these individuals as licensed marriage and family therapists ( LMFT or MFT ); licensed professional counselors ( LPC ), licensed professional therapists ( LPT ) or licensed clinical social workers ( LCSW ). In some states such as Oregon these individuals practice independently; many work in clinics and hospitals. They provide individual, couples/family, and sometimes group therapy. Marriage and family therapists focus on family dynamics and relationships; they often treat couples who are having marital or relationship difficulties and families struggling with dysfunctional interactions. Many marriage and family therapists provide individual and group therapy as well treatment for a variety of mental health related issues.

Life Coaches focus on helping people utilize their abilities more effectively; they often aim to help individuals achieve their full potential . Although there are various programs which train coaches, coaches do not hold licenses by state boards as psychiatrists, social workers, family therapists and psychologists do. Appointments, often by telephone, guide individuals in achieving personal and business goals. Some coaches work in business settings with executives.

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