Who Treats Depression?
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2023
Navigating a mental health condition like major depressive disorder (MDD) can be challenging. But you are not alone. There are several types of skilled experts who help people overcome the challenges posed by major depression.
Psychiatrists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental health disorders. These doctors have completed medical school and hold a medical degree (MD or DO). They undergo specialized training in psychiatry during their medical education and residency.1
Their main job is to understand and treat different mental health problems. They can diagnose conditions like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Psychiatrists can also prescribe treatments, including therapy, medicine, or a combination of both.1
Psychologists are trained mental health experts who hold a doctoral degree (PhD or PsyD). They use various therapeutic techniques to diagnose and treat mental health issues. Psychologists work in a variety of settings, such as clinics, schools, or private practices. Some states allow psychologists to prescribe medicine, while others do not.1
Counselors and therapists
There are different types of counselors and therapists. Each specializes in different approaches to helping people with mental health conditions. Here are some common types of therapists:1
- Licensed professional counselors (LPCs) or licensed clinical professional counselors (LCPCs)
- Substance use disorder counselors
- Licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs)
- Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs)
Primary care doctors
Primary care doctors have completed medical school and hold a medical degree (MD or DO). They are often called family doctors. They provide general healthcare services to people.1
Family doctors are often the first point of contact for people seeking medical or mental health care. They offer a wide range of services, including:1
- Diagnosing and treating various medical conditions
- Providing preventive care
- Managing overall health and wellness
These doctors are not specialists in mental health. But they can identify and address some mental health concerns, especially less severe conditions like mild anxiety or depression.1
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice registered nurses. They have a master’s or doctoral degree. NPs are specialized in one or several treatment areas. NPs often act as the leader of treatment teams. NPs can:1
- Assess, diagnose, and treat common mental health conditions
- Manage and adjust medicines
- Refer to specialists when needed
- Work closely with other mental health providers
Physician assistants (PAs) are healthcare experts who practice under the supervision of a doctor. They also have a master’s or doctoral degree. PAs operate across the spectrum of healthcare based on the practice of the overseeing physician. PAs may:1
- Assess, diagnose, and treat mental health disorders
- Manage medicines
- Refer people to specialists if needed
- Work with other mental health providers
Pharmacists specialize in preparing and giving out prescription drugs. Psychiatric pharmacists specialize in treating mental health disorders through medicine. They have advanced training in this field.1
Pharmacists may advise people about medicine choices and adjustments. They also teach people about their drugs, how to take them correctly, and what to expect during treatment.1
Keep in mind that the experts listed here may have more or less training in certain mental health conditions. Unlicensed professionals and peer specialists are increasingly present in the treatment space as well.
During MDD treatment, you have a team of dedicated experts who are committed to your well-being. Each brings unique skills and insights to help you navigate the condition. With their support, you can move toward reclaiming your emotional health and well-being.