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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jennifer McGinness

Choosing Mental Health & Support Professionals

When your child is struggling with a mental health concern, you are likely desperate for help and answers. However, it can be difficult to know just where to look to get the support your child needs. There are many different mental health professionals and other professionals trained in helping children. It can be daunting to try to find a specific professional or team of professionals to support your family. Below is a comprehensive list of different types of professionals accompanied by descriptions of what they do and how they can help. 

Mental Health Professionals 

Licensed Counselors & Therapists 

Licensed counselors, therapists, and social workers are mental health professionals who have completed a master's degree and licensure in their specific field. Each of these professionals are qualified to provide psychotherapy.

  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)

    • An LCSW has completed a master’s degree in social work and can provide both mental health services and access to appropriate community resources (Association of Social Work Boards, 2022)

  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT)

    • LMFTs complete a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. They primarily provide marital, couples, and family counseling. 

  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

    • LMHCs and LPCs are counselors who have completed a master’s degree in counseling. This title often varies by state but both LMHCs and LPCs are trained in providing psychotherapy services (American Counseling Association, 2024)


Psychologists have doctoral degrees in psychology and typically provide therapy and testing services. Psychologists are considered the primary experts in administering and interpreting psychological assessments (Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, 2024)

  • Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) 

  • Doctor of Philosophy in (Clinical or Counseling) Psychology (PhD) 

  • School Psychology 

  • Certifications in school psychology vary by state and are awarded to mental health professionals who address mental health concerns in the grade-school environment. 

  • School Psychology Specialty (SPS) is a board certification in School Psychology. A doctoral degree (PhD, PsyD, EdD) is a prerequisite for this credential (American Board of Professional Psychology, 2024)

  • The Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) certification requires a master's degree (MA, MS, or MEd) in School Psychology.


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have completed medical school and a residency in psychiatry. When searching for a psychiatrist for a child or teen, working with a Board-Certified Child Psychiatrist is ideal. Board certification in child psychiatry indicates the physician has completed specialized training in child and adolescent psychiatry (American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, 2024). While psychiatrists can prescribe psychotropic medications in every state, psychologists only have prescribing rights in some states after completing additional training.

  • Medical Doctor (MD)

  • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) 

Other Support Professionals

Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA):

BCBAs have a BCBA board certification and a master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis or a closely related field. Applied Behavior Analysis is an evidence-based practice aimed at promoting daily functioning for those with Autism or other intellectual disabilities. 

Executive Functioning Coaches: 

Executive functioning coaches assist clients with managing impulsivity, focus, planning, and organization. An executive functioning coach may be appropriate for someone with ADHD or individuals with other disorders that affect attention and memory. Typically, an executive functioning coach has a master’s degree in counseling or a related field and has completed a certification course in executive functioning coaching. 

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN):

Registered dieticians receive a certification from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In contrast, professionals identified as “nutritionists” are not required to undergo rigorous training and credentialing. 

Occupational Therapists: 

Occupational therapists help clients with disabilities, health concerns, motor limitations, and sensory sensitivity navigate their environments. 

  • Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)

  • Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Pediatricians, primary care physicians, and family medicine doctors are able to prescribe basic psychotropic medications but often refer patients to psychiatrists for medication management. Pediatricians can also help rule-out physical conditions that may be causing your child to experience distress.

Prescribing Nurse Practitioners: 

Nurse practitioners are able to prescribe psychotropic medications but may need physician supervision depending on the state.

  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) 

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Speech and Language Pathologists (SLP)/ Speech therapists: 

SLPs or speech therapists hold master’s degrees in Speech-Language Pathology. SLPs help those with speech, communication, and swallowing impairments to improve their functioning in these areas.

If you feel your child needs the support of a mental health professional, connecting with a therapist is a great place to start!


At Balanced Minds Psychology & Wellness we specialize in assisting teens and children with navigating life’s challenges. To learn more about me and the services I provide, checkout my profile. If you are ready to start the therapy process, contact us today to start a free consultation, either over telehealth or in person!



About American Counseling Association. American Counseling Association. (2024).

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: (2024).

The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. ASPPB. (2024).

Board certified behavior analysts (BCBA). Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2024, January 25).

Child and adolescent psychiatry. American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. (2024, January 18).

How to get a License. Association of Social Work Boards. (2022, February 23).

School psychology. ABPP. (2024).


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