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Overwhelmed? 5 types of mental health specialists can help

Mental Health | April 21, 2021
woman in a mask in a counseling session
In tumultuous times, we need support. Learn which type of provider might be right for you.

It’s been a nerve-racking year, plain and simple.

From stress-inducing changes in society to heart-wrenching events, people everywhere feel their lives have been turned upside down.

Many are having a tough time getting back to “normal” activities, either feeling uncomfortable or simply unable to do so.

“The impacts of physical distancing, job loss, isolation, the loss of loved ones due to COVID-19 and fear have resulted in a considerably greater number of people overwhelmingly experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder in the United States this past year,” says Camille Moreno, PsyD, clinical manager of PeaceHealth’s Cascade Park Behavioral Health Clinic in Vancouver, Washington. “The tragedy of systemic racialized trauma compounds these experiences for people of color.”

Normal activities help us cope with the stressors of daily life, including enjoying coffee with friends, playing sports together, celebrating holidays with friends and loved ones, and attending church or social gatherings.

Without these activities, we lack the outlets to relieve stress, especially during trying times like we’ve experienced the past year. Stress piles up, which can lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed.

How do I deal with these feelings?

A common choice, particularly during today’s times, is to seek professional help, such as individual counseling or group therapy.

Dr. Moreno notes, “At PeaceHealth, we have definitely seen an increase in the number of people across our system seeking support from mental health providers.”   

Behavioral health providers, both at PeaceHealth and elsewhere in our communities, are working hard to keep up with the demand.

If you need mental or behavioral health assistance, a variety of specialists in the field can help.

Types of Providers

Here’s a short list of the types of experts you’ll find at PeaceHealth or in private practice who can help you cope with those overwhelming feelings:

(MD/Doctor of Medicine, DO/Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine)
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners
(Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner/PMHNP):

Education: Medical training degree plus additional specialized training in psychiatry.   
Why choose:  These practitioners specialize in medications for psychological reasons. They typically ask questions about your symptoms, your life and recommended medication, if needed.

Psychologist (PhD, PsyD):

Education: Doctoral degree focused on psychological services.
Why choose:  Psychologist graduate training focuses on all aspects of human behavior, with an emphasis on research and scientific methods. Psychologists can also do psychological or cognitive testing (this is testing for how a person thinks or reasons) for schooling or diagnosis.

Clinical Social Worker (LICSW, LCSW):

Education:  Master’s degree plus two years of post-graduate work (and must hold an “independent clinical” license to enter private practice for mental health).
Why choose: Clinical social workers are trained to perform psychotherapy, with a particular emphasis on connecting people to their community and support services available.

Mental Health Counselor (LPC, LMHC):

Education: Master’s degree plus two years of post-graduate work (generalist mental health counselors have various license titles that vary by state).
Why choose: Counselors help patients cope with a variety of mental, emotional, behavioral, and social challenges and work toward concrete and actionable solutions.

Marriage and Family Therapists (LMF):

Education: Master’s degree
Why choose: During school, these practitioners focus on marital or family therapy (or something similar), allowing them to hone in on a singular focus for their master’s degree. However, as with all therapists, post-graduate work can be done in any area, allowing them to either generalize the type of care they offer or focus on one specific treatment or type of client.

Of course, therapy is just one important tool that’s available to reduce and manage our stress.

“In addition to ensuring a healthy diet and exercise practices, it is helpful to restore routine and rituals that provide the predictability that our nervous system needs to relax,” says Dr. Moreno. 

“Seeking out mental health care can support each of these efforts. As PeaceHealth expands its available mental healthcare for patients and caregivers, we hope and encourage all to access the mental health care and support they may need. Nobody should suffer the struggles of isolation or any other difficult life experience alone.”

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