• Images of Brains

    Anyone who has been through a traumatic event knows the injuries aren’t just broken bones, but also the emotional trauma of surviving something horrific. These stress responses will often fade and the experience won’t interfere with a person’s everyday life. But for some people, these symptoms persist and block a person from living the life they want to lead. Some people will experience negative emotions, trouble sleeping, and revisiting the event in their mind after experiencing a trauma.[1] Others may constantly worry, cry often, have trouble thinking clearly, have nightmares, and/or isolate themselves. I often see this in my practice as an attorney that helps clients put their lives back together after trauma. I am often asked about the different types of available mental health professionals when it comes to trauma. To help, I have compiled a list of common mental health professionals below.

    It is always important to reach out to a primary care provider and explore these treatment options. A primary care doctor will be able to direct a patient to the specific type of mental health professional who can best assist.

    Here are common types of mental health professionals:

    Primary Care Physician (PCP)

    Primary Care Physicians hold Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degrees.


    Psychologists hold a doctoral degree in clinical psychology or a specialty such as counseling or education. They can make diagnoses and provide individual and group therapy.


    Licensed medical professionals who can diagnose mental health conditions and prescribe and monitor medications, but who often refer patients to other providers for therapy.

    Clinical Psychologist

    Typically have a graduate degree in clinical psychology such as a PhD or a PsyD. Typically these providers will do psychotherapy unless they have advanced training that allows them to prescribe medication.


    Hold a master’s-level degree and are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health and use therapeutic techniques based on specific training programs. Licensed therapists and counselors have many titles, including:

    • LPC: Licensed Professional Counselor
    • LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
    • LCADAC, Licensed Clinical Alcohol & Drug Abuse Counselor

    Clinical Social Worker

    Hold a master’s-level degree in Social Work. Trained to evaluate a person’s mental health and also in case management and advocacy services. Will use therapeutic techniques based on specific training programs. Will have the following titles:

    • LICSW, Licensed Independent Social Workers
    • LCSW, Licensed Clinical Social Workers
    • ACSW, Academy of Certified Social Workers

    Psychiatric or Mental Health Nurse Practitioners

    These providers can assess, diagnose and treat patients by providing therapy and prescribing medications for mental health disorders or substance abuse problems. PMHNPs hold a Master’s of Science (MS) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in nursing with specialized focus on psychiatry. Nurses are licensed by the state and will be designated as a Registered Nurse (RN) or Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP), depending on their level of training.

    Certified Peer Specialists

    These specialists have lived with a mental health condition or substance use disorder but have received additional training to help others with their recovery though support, mentoring, and guidance. In Washington, these providers are licensed by the Department of Social and Health Services.

    Need Support Now? If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.


    [1] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/coping-with-traumatic-events


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