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Types of Licensed Mental Health Professionals for Youth

Licensed Mental Health Professionals

Mental and behavioral health challenges are complex. The exact cause of most mental illness is not known but research shows that it emerges from a combination of genetic, psychological, biological and environmental factors. Sometimes those environmental factors simply relate to stress and transitions in life. If your family is facing challenges due to relationships, work, finances or emotions, there’s an increased chance that your child is experiencing stress related to these challenges, too.

Fortunately, licensed mental health professionals offer a potential solution to help children and families in times of need. When deciding which type of professional is best suited to help your child, start with a primary care physician. Your child’s primary care doctor can ask about his or her symptoms and begin investigating whether there are physical problems that can be causing the symptoms. He or she will help you decide what type of mental health professional is best for your child and learn if health insurance or other methods can be used to cover the cost of treatment.

Types of Mental Health Professionals

Licensed Counselor or Therapist

Counseling and therapy usually evoke an image of two people talking. While that concept is pretty simple and straightforward, the conversations can be life-changing. A licensed counselor or therapist is a person trained to listen without judgment and ask important questions. This process helps people discover solutions to their problems and bring about positive change in their lives.

When you look at what’s happening below the surface, you’ll see that therapy is the process of treating and healing from a disorder. It’s not just about stopping negative feelings or creating happy feelings; it’s about helping a person learn how to develop meaningful relationships and live a healthy, productive, satisfying life.

There are many kinds of counselors and therapists with different specialties and levels of education. They might provide individual therapy, couples or family therapy, or both. While the credential options vary by location, some of the most common types are licensed professional counselors (LPC), licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT), and licensed clinical social workers (LCSW). There are many more variations, specialties and credentialing options. There are also those who approach their work from a certain perspective, such as their religious faith.

Yet despite the variations, these mental health professionals are each trained in psychological therapy and licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders in individuals and family systems. However, they cannot prescribe medication.

Licensed Psychologists

A licensed psychologist may or may not have a doctoral degree in psychology, which is the study of the human mind and how it affects behavior. Psychologists can do testing, make diagnoses, provide counseling and therapy, and provide treatment for mental health disorders. However, in most states, they are not qualified to prescribe medication. Some may have training in specific forms of therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy or specific types of interventions. It is common for a psychologist to work in partnership with a psychiatrist in treating a patient. The psychologist provides the therapy while the psychiatrist provides medication management and other medical treatment.


Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors with medical and psychiatric training. They can diagnose mental health conditions as well as prescribe medications. Psychiatrists are also able to offer counseling and provide therapy. Some have special training in child and adolescent mental health or substance use disorders. Psychiatrists often focus on a client’s medication management and work with another practitioner such as a therapist or psychologist who provides the therapy.

Keep in Mind the Benefits of In-Home Therapy

Mental health treatment can come from a variety of professionals, but it can also happen in a variety of settings. While it’s common for people to travel to a professional’s office to receive
treatment, research shows that it is typically more effective for people to receive this type of help at home. This is especially true when therapy is for a couple or an entire family, and the positive changes that need to happen relate to that home environment.

Why is home-based therapy more effective? The person receiving treatment tends to be more relaxed and can open up more easily. Also, the professional is able to make more observations about the person and family based on their natural environment – observations that may relate to problems or solutions being discussed.

Other Benefits of In-Home Therapy:

• Eliminates common barriers to mental health treatment such as childcare and transportation
• More convenient access to care for the client; often occurs after school, in the evening or during the weekend
• Duration of a therapy session is not time-limited and is based on the need of the recipients
• Allows a therapist to learn more about a child or teen by working in their personal environment

Would you like to know about additional types of mental health treatment for youth? Download this free offer, The 3 Types of Mental and Behavioral Health Treatment for Children and Teens. This in-depth guide will help you understand what types of treatment are suitable for a child or teen based on their symptoms.

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