Who to See for Depression Treatment


Probably one of the largest barriers to the treatment of depression is making the decision to seek help. Once you have made that decision, however, the availability of help is generally good, with many sources to draw from.

Primary Care Physicians

Depression can have many causes, among them physical causes. Certain medications or combinations of medications might result in depression. Many health issues can also cause one to feel depressed. A conversation with your primary care doctor might rule out any physical causes for your depression.

Psychologists and Psychiatrists

We typically turn to psychiatrists or psychologists for help with mental disorders, but a lot of people don’t know the difference between them. A psychiatrist is a medical practitioner specializing in the treatment of mental illness. As a physician, a psychiatrist is able to prescribe medications.

A psychologist is an expert in the specialty of psychology who is trained to perform psychological research, treatment and testing. Both psychiatrists and psychologists can treat patients using psychotherapy and both can conduct research. In Louisiana and New Mexico psychologists are allowed to prescribe medication under the supervision of a psychiatrist.

Many practices are turning to psychiatric nurse practitioners to provide services. Nurse practitioners receive additional training and are qualified to prescribe medication under the supervision of a psychiatrist or other physician, as well as to use psychotherapy to treat patients, either individually or in group sessions.

Social Workers

Clinical social workers(CSWs) are trained mental health workers with Masters’ degrees in social work. After completing two additional years of clinical training they are eligible to be licensed to practice psychotherapy. They are not able to prescribe, and must refer patients to a psychiatrist to evaluate the need for prescribed medication.

CSWs represent as many as 60% of the licensed mental health practitioners in the United States, according to the National Association of Social Workers.

Pastoral Psychotherapists

Pastoral psychotherapy is practiced by those who desire to integrate their knowledge of psychology with a spiritual belief system, in order to provide a level of care that goes beyond traditional psychotherapy. Practitioners are licensed mental health professionals who have also completed significant religious and/or theological training.

Treatment is not confined to any one denomination, but is non-sectarian. Pastoral psychotherapists are respectful of the belief systems of their patients and do not seek to impose their own beliefs.

Don’t Give Up

Locating the right therapist for you might include checking out recommendations from friends or from your physician. It is important to work with someone who “clicks” with you, as you will be more comfortable opening up about your feelings. Don’t hesitate to try someone new until you find a relationship that works.

Whether you decide to seek pharmaceutical treatment or psychotherapy, know that it takes time to feel the results. Don’t give up if you don’t feel better right away. Change your meds, change your therapist – but don’t give up.

Sources: WebMD, HelpGuide.org, and American Association of Pastoral Counselors

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