How To Select the Right Mental Health Care Provider

When you’re just beginning to consider getting support for your mental health, asking for help alone is intimidating. But then, as you start looking for where to ask for help, you can easily get overwhelmed. There is a lot to navigate as you look up the clinics in your area, contemplate teletherapy or telepsychiatry, and figure out which type of mental health care provider you need. To help ease the overwhelm, we’re going to straighten some things out for you. In this post, we explain the differences between providers, what they can offer you, and the most important thing to focus on in your search.

Types of Mental Health Care Providers and Their Treatment Options:

As you’re starting your search, it is important to know what kind of mental health care provider can help you with what you’re looking for. Typically, you’ll see options for four different types of providers: therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs). 


Therapists may have titles such as Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). These are people who completed a graduate program in social work (Master of Social Work), marriage and family therapy (Master of Science in Psychology), or counseling (Master of Science in Counseling).  

Licensed masters-level therapists can assess, diagnose, and treat mental illness. They are able to provide psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. However, they are not able to prescribe medications. 


A psychologist has a title that includes Ph.D. or Psy.D. They have completed a graduate program in Clinical Psychology or Counseling Psychology. 

Licensed psychologists can assess, diagnose, and treat mental illness. In addition, they can provide psychological testing (also called projective testing or projective assessments). Some psychologists/businesses offer psychological testing services, and some do not and only provide psychotherapy. Psychologists are unable to prescribe medications. 


A psychiatrist has a title that includes MD or DO. They have completed medical school and a four-year residency in psychiatry. They are a licensed physician who became a board-certified psychiatrist after graduating from medical school, passing their title requirements, completing a psychiatry residency, and passing a board exam in psychiatry. Some types of psychiatrists, such as adolescent psychiatrists, are required to complete additional items in order to become certified.  

Because psychiatrists are medical doctors, they can prescribe medications and alternative treatments for mental health disorders, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Psychiatrists can provide limited therapy, but most don’t. If they do, it is very little therapy and mostly medication management.  

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNPs):

A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) is a licensed registered nurse (RN) who has completed a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BRN) as well as a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing, mental health nursing, or community mental health nursing (MSN). In addition, they have completed two years of supervised clinical supervision. 

PMHNPs, like all other NPs, can prescribe medications. They can’t prescribe alternative treatments, but they can refer patients to psychiatrists who can. Like psychiatrists, they can provide limited psychotherapy, but many focus on medication management. PMHNPs work under the supervision of a board-certified psychiatrist and cannot practice independently. 

Getting a Mental Health Evaluation

Before deciding on a specific mental health care provider, it’s often beneficial to undergo a mental health evaluation. This comprehensive assessment helps determine the nature and extent of your mental health needs, guiding you to the most appropriate form of care.

A mental health evaluation typically involves a series of questions and assessments conducted by a licensed professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. During the evaluation, the provider will explore your mental health history, current symptoms, and any relevant medical history. The goal is to accurately diagnose any mental health conditions and develop a tailored treatment plan.

Why is a Mental Health Evaluation Important?

  • Accurate Diagnosis: Ensures you receive an accurate diagnosis, which is critical for effective treatment.
  • Personalized Treatment Plan: Helps create a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs.
  • Informed Provider Choice: Guides you in choosing the most suitable provider, whether it’s a therapist, psychiatrist, or PMHNP.

If you believe you need a formal mental health evaluation, we recommend starting with a psychiatrist or PMHNP. They can conduct the assessment and provide you with a clear understanding of your mental health needs. Call Mindful Health Solutions today at (844) 867-8444 to schedule your mental health evaluation.

Finding the Right Mental Health Care Provider for You

Now that we have each kind of provider laid out for you, here are our recommendations for which provider might be best for you: 

  • If you’re interested in doing psychotherapy, where you can talk to a provider about navigating your past, present, and future life experiences, in addition to building coping skills, we recommend seeing a therapist. 
  • If you’re in need of a formal psychiatric exam, we recommend seeing a psychologist.
  • If you’re interested in getting prescribed medication (and your medication needs are pretty basic), then we recommend seeing a PMHNP. 
  • If you have complex medication needs, such as if you’re taking multiple medications, or if you’re interested in being prescribed alternative treatments, such as TMS or esketamine, then we recommend seeing a psychiatrist.  

And, just to clarify, it is very common to have both a therapist and a psychiatrist or PMHNP to help you handle and treat your mental health.  

The Most Important Factor in Selecting the Right Mental Health Care Provider

When selecting a mental health provider, the most important factor to consider is if you can see yourself growing a trusting and safe relationship with them. You want to be sure to work with a provider you can relate to and who understands who you are as a person. According to our Director of Psychotherapy, “70% of you getting better is the quality of the relationship you have with your provider.” You should feel safe with your provider, and you should be able to trust them. It also helps if they match your demographic. For example, if you are a Black woman who wants to talk about your experiences as a Black woman, then it would be ideal if your provider is also a Black woman.  

Be Patient When Finding a Therapist or Choosing a Psychiatrist

Lastly, we want to emphasize the importance of patience. It is very common for the process to take a little trial and error to find a provider who works best for your unique needs. Be patient as you navigate this new territory and find the best help possible. If you have to try out a provider or two before you find one that works well, we encourage you to keep a positive mindset. Think of each provider you try as a means to get different perspectives on your well-being, mindset, and experiences. With each perspective, you are sure to develop deeper insight into who you are.  

Beginning your mental health care journey can be intimidating, but we hope this blog post helped to make it even a little easier for you. If you need help finding the support you’re looking for, we’d love to help you. We have over 100 psychiatrists, therapists, and PMHNPS, all ambitious to help you find relief. Connect with us and get the support you deserve today. Call (844) 867-8444 to take the first step on your mental health journey.

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