Healthy Habits

Behavioral Health – Selecting a Provider

Content provided by the GBS Health & Wellness Team

Knowing where to start when seeking help from a behavioral or mental health provider can be confusing. Therapists and psychiatrists are the most known professions in this field. The main difference between the two is that a therapist uses talk therapy (a.k.a. psychotherapy) to help treat mental health symptoms and behaviors whereas a psychiatrist can diagnose and prescribe medication to treat mental health disorders.

Targeted Talk Therapy

Talk therapy can be an effective treatment for anxiety and depression or to help manage stress. There are many types of therapists, including psychologists, social workers, certified mental health counselors, and marital and family therapists. Specialized therapists who target specific issues may include:

Addiction – It is important to make sure you are getting a Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor or that the therapist specifies that they treat addiction or substance use disorders.

Autism – Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) are specially trained providers that provide intensive therapy to help treat some behaviors of autism.

Marital / Family Therapy – Some therapists will not do couples or family therapy, so be sure to ask if this is something you want to focus on. Also, some insurances will not cover this type of therapy, so you may want to check first.

Different Types of Mental Health Providers

Review the list below to learn more about the specifics of different mental health providers, including details on degrees and specialties:

Certified Alcohol & Drug Abuse Counselor: Counselor with specific clinical training in alcohol and drug abuse. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.

Clinical Social Worker: Counselor with a master’s degree in social work from an accredited graduate program. Trained to diagnose, provide individual and group counseling, and provide case management and advocacy; usually found in the hospital setting.

Licensed Professional Counselor: Counselor with a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.

Marital & Family Therapist: Counselor with a master’s degree, with special education and training in marital and family therapy. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.

Mental Health Counselor: Counselor with a master’s degree and several years of supervised clinical work experience. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.

Other Therapists: Therapist with an advanced degree trained in specialized forms of therapy. Examples include art therapist or music therapist.

Peer Specialist: Counselor with lived experience with mental health or substance use conditions. Assists clients with recovery by recognizing and developing strengths and setting goals. Many peer support programs require several hours of training.

Psychiatrist: Medical doctor specializing in the care of persons with mental health conditions. This provider can diagnose, prescribe medications, and will occasionally provide therapy.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner / Advanced Practice Nurse: Clinician who is a nurse by training and has continued to complete a doctorate degree in psychiatric nursing. This provider can prescribe medications and can also provide therapy.

Psychologist: A specially trained therapist with a doctorate degree (a PhD or a PsyD) who can provide psychotherapy of all types and can complete psychological testing to help with diagnosis.

Finding & Selecting a Provider

There are three ways to find a provider:

  • Call your Employee Assistance Program (if you have one)
  • Check with your insurance carrier for a list of providers in your area
  • Use Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist tool ( to find therapists, psychiatrists, treatment centers, or support groups near you. You can search by zip code and insurance carrier.

The most important part of choosing a therapist is finding someone you are comfortable talking to and who you can see regularly. The first session is typically about getting to know your history, so please give it two to three sessions before making decisions about continuing therapy. If you would like your therapy sessions to be different, don’t hesitate to tell your therapist. They are there to help you!

Please Note: Immediate appointment availability may be limited. Call as soon as possible to ensure you receive the earliest available appointment.

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