Choosing the Right Mental Health Professional For Your Needs

Discover who a mental health professional is, how they can help you, and explore essential factors to consider when choosing a mental health professional.

Who Is a Mental Health Professional?

Mental healthcare has become increasingly important globally. This has therefore led to a growing spotlight on mental health professionals. However, there’s still widespread confusion about who a mental health professional is and what they actually do.

A mental health professional, skilled in adolescent family therapy, is licensed and trained in diagnosing, treating, and managing mental health disorders and emotional issues, emphasizing the family context in adolescent development.. This broad term encompasses a range of specialists, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors.

Each type of mental health professional offers a unique set of skills and areas of expertise. These professionals assume multiple roles aimed at assisting you in improving your mental health. Some of these responsibilities encompass:

mental health professional

Diagnostic Roles

One of the first roles of a mental health professional is to perform a diagnostic evaluation. They use scientifically validated tools and methodologies to diagnose various conditions. These conditions may include depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, and more.

Accurate diagnosis is the first step in any effective treatment plan. It is imperative for identifying the most appropriate therapeutic interventions for patients.

Therapeutic Interventions

A mental health professional will also recommend a therapeutic course of action based on your diagnosis. They will develop a tailored treatment plan to ensure you receive treatments specific to your condition.

Emotional Support and Guidance

Mental health professionals provide more than just diagnosis and treatment. They also serve as a vital source of emotional support and guidance.
Through regular sessions, they help people navigate the complexities of their emotional landscape. This makes it easier for the individual to cope with stress, resolve conflicts, and make informed decisions.

Educational Role

A mental health professional also helps patients understand the nature of their psychological conditions. They provide tools for managing symptoms and risk factors.

This is important because education about symptoms and disorders can help individuals manage them in a safer and healthier manner.

Crisis Intervention

In extreme cases, a mental health professional can also perform crisis interventions. This may involve helping individuals work through suicidal thoughts, intense episodes of mania or depression, or other emergencies.
It’s also worth noting that a mental health professional often works as part of a multidisciplinary team. They may collaborate with general physicians and other specialists to offer holistic care to address the full spectrum of an individual’s health needs.

Types of Mental Health Professionals

There are multiple types of mental health professionals available to help individuals work through struggles or symptoms. While the terms counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist tend to be used interchangeably, it’s crucial to understand that they represent distinct professions.
They each provide their own specific roles, qualifications, and areas of expertise.


The term “therapist” is often used as a general designation for professionals trained in psychotherapy. Therapists may hold a variety of degrees in several areas. This includes Master’s or Doctoral degrees in psychology, social work, or marriage and family therapy.
They mainly use talk therapy and other behavioral interventions to address emotional and psychological issues.

They may also specialize in therapeutic approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). A therapist is typically well-equipped to help individuals manage conditions like anxiety and depression.1


Unlike therapists, counselors focus on providing targeted support for specific life issues. This can range from addiction counseling to career development and educational guidance. They are also skilled in addressing short-term crises and may specialize in areas like marriage or family counseling.
Counselors usually have a Master’s degree in counseling, often with specialized training in particular areas of concern.


A psychologist is a mental health professional who is particularly skilled in psychological testing and assessment. They often combine diagnostic tools with psychotherapy to treat complex mental health conditions.
Although psychologists also offer counseling services, many also focus on research. Psychologists hold a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D. or Psy.D., and are trained in the scientific study of the mind and behavior.2


Unlike other mental health professionals, psychiatrists are medical doctors specializing in mental health. This enables them to prescribe medication and perform medical procedures.
They are uniquely equipped to diagnose and treat mental health conditions that may require medication or other interventions.
People often consult psychiatrists for conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression. Psychiatrists’ training often allows them to differentiate mental health issues from underlying physiological issues.

How Does a Mental Health Professional Assess and Diagnose Mental Health Conditions?

In order to start receiving help for the symptoms an individual is struggling with, they will first have to undergo an assessment and diagnosis. This process generally entails the following:

Initial Consultation

During the initial consultation, the mental health professional engages the client in a detailed conversation. While it might seem like a casual chat, this is a specialized form of clinical assessment.
The mental health professional listens attentively and asks strategic questions. These help the individual talk about their symptoms, history, and other relevant information.

Psychological Testing

Sometimes, a mental health professional will administer psychological tests to gain further insights into a client’s mental health. These could range from personality tests to adult psychiatric assessments, offering a more specialized clinical evaluation.. A typical example is the Beck Depression Inventory.

Observational Methods

The best way to understand some conditions is through direct observation. Here, a mental health professional may use naturalistic or participant observation methods.

Diagnostic Criteria

Armed with data from interviews and testing, the mental health professional will then refer to standardized diagnostic criteria.
This is often from an authoritative guide like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It may also be from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
It’s important to note that diagnosis is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. A mental health professional will often schedule follow-up appointments to monitor symptoms. This will also help in assessing the effectiveness of treatments.

Therapeutic Approaches Commonly Used By Mental Health Professionals

Mental health professionals will provide guidance for a wide range of mental health concerns. To achieve this, they often employ a range of therapeutic approaches and modalities for treatment.
Some of the most commonly used therapies in the mental health field include the following:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

CBT is one of the most widely recognized and researched forms of psychotherapy. It focuses on identifying and challenging distorted thought patterns and beliefs to replace them with healthier thoughts and behaviors.

CBT is often effective for treating anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It has also been shown to be helpful for substance use disorder.3

Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Therapy

This mental health approach originates from the work of Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis delves deep into the unconscious mind to uncover unresolved conflicts affecting current behavior.
Psychodynamic therapy is a less intensive and more modern adaptation of psychoanalysis. However, it also aims to explore the emotional and psychological roots of mental health issues.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a form of CBT, but it does have distinct features that make it different. DBT combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness and acceptance strategies. This makes it particularly effective in treating borderline personality disorder and other severe mood dysregulations.

Family and Couples Therapy

Family therapy views mental health issues in the context of the family system and addresses them collectively. Similarly, couples therapy services deals with matters within a romantic relationship. Both aim to improve communication, problem-solving, and emotional regulation within these close relationships.

Group Therapy

As the name implies, this approach is conducted with multiple participants facing similar issues. Group therapy offers a supportive environment for individuals to share experiences and healing strategies. It is often used to treat conditions like addiction, social anxiety, or trauma.

Play Therapy

Child individual play therapy is a mental health approach primarily used with children. It uses play as a medium for expressing feelings and thoughts. This approach allows the mental health professional to understand the child’s emotional state. It also helps the child learn to communicate more effectively.4

Trauma-Focused Therapies

A typical example of this is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Trauma-focused therapies are beneficial for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These therapies help the individual process the trauma and reduce avoidance behaviors simultaneously.

Motivational Interviewing

This is a client-centered counseling style that helps clients explore and resolve ambivalence. It is effective for treating addiction and supporting harm reduction.
In motivational interviewing, the mental health professional employs a non-confrontational approach to help clients find their motivations for change.

How To Choose The Right Mental Health Professional For Your Needs

Selecting the right mental health professional is crucial in your mental health journey. It’s vital to find someone who aligns with your specific needs and therapeutic goals.
Here are some tips to help you make an informed decision:

Understand Your Needs

It’s nearly impossible to find the right mental health professional for you if you don’t even know what you want or need out of treatment. So, it’s imperative to start by understanding the issues you’re facing, whether it’s anxiety, depression, addiction, or relationship problems.
The type of symptoms you are experiencing will influence the kind of mental health professional you should consult. It will also determine the type of therapy you need.

Verify Credentials and Experience

When you have figured out your needs, it’s time to start exploring the various mental health professional types. Here, you’ll want to focus on the following:
  • Licensing: Ensure the mental health professional is licensed to practice in your state.
  • Specialization: Some professionals specialize in specific issues, like addiction or child psychology. Make sure they have relevant experience with your particular problem.

Consult Multiple Sources

One great way of making sure you choose the right mental health professional is by hearing from others. This can be through:
  • Referrals: Personal referrals from friends or family.
  • Online Reviews: Websites and apps often feature reviews and ratings of mental health professionals.
You can also consult your doctor, as they usually have a network of trusted specialists to refer you to.

Schedule Consultations

Once you have found suitable potential candidates, engage with them. You can start by scheduling a consultation. This should help you gauge your comfort and compatibility with the mental health professional.
You’ll also need to ask questions and seek clarification. Ask questions about their therapeutic approach, experience with your issues, and what the treatment plan might involve.

Assess Compatibility

There are two main things to consider when looking into the compatibility with your potential mental health professional.
They include:
  • Comfort Level: You should feel comfortable sharing personal information with your mental health professional.
  • Cost and Logistics: Consider factors like insurance, session costs, and location. These practical considerations can impact your ability to sustain therapy.

Monitor Progress

After a few sessions, take some time to evaluate whether you’re making progress and if you feel your concerns are being addressed. If things aren’t working out, switching to another mental health professional is okay. Therapeutic relationships, like any other, might require trial and error to get right.
mental health professional

Find Help at Ethos Wellness

Mental health conditions can be quite challenging without the right help and intervention. This is where Ethos Wellness steps in. We’re not just a facility; we’re your ally on the journey toward mental well-being.
We believe that no matter where you are, there is a path forward – and we’re committed to walking that path with you.

What We Offer

Our specialized outpatient treatment programs offer precisely the targeted support you need. At Ethos Wellness, we leverage a blend of holistic and evidence-based therapies uniquely designed to set you on the course toward lasting recovery.

We understand that mental health is not a one-size-fits-all experience, so we offer personalized treatment plans tailored to your needs, goals, and concerns.

Get in Touch Today

Ethos Wellness is a sanctuary for your wellness journey. In this safe haven, you can put your mental health struggles behind you.

Empower yourself today by reaching out to us and taking the vital step towards a brighter mental health journey. Together, we’ll help you work towards a brighter and healthier future.

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Questions About Treatment?

Reach out to our Ethos Wellness team today for direction and guidance in your recovery journey. We’re here to provide you with the whole-person, personalized support you need for the sustainable wellness you deserve.