A brief overview of mental health professionals

Just as there can be many different ways in which our mental health can be impacted, there are also many different types of mental health and health professional who can help. All of the different titles can be confusing and it can be difficult to know what the differences between professionals are, so we have put together a brief guide to help explain what different professionals do and what their roles are.

General Practitioner (GP)

A medical doctor who is a generalist. GPs are often the first point of contact for people experiencing distress or difficulties in functioning. They can provide onward referrals for individuals experiencing mental health concerns and, in some cases, may prescribe medication for mental health difficulties such as depression or anxiety.  


A medical doctor specialising in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and study of mental health difficulties. Psychiatrists will prescribe medications in the treatment they provide, with some being trained in and providing psychotherapy or counselling as well.


A mental health professional who is trained to a postgraduate level (master’s or doctorate) and specialises in the assessment, treatment, and study of psychological processes related to mental health. A psychologist is trained to engage with a wide variety of difficulties that an individual may be experiencing and is skilled in a variety of methods of intervention and assessment.


A mental health professional who is trained to either an undergraduate or postgraduate level and will typically be trained in a single approach to mental health difficulties and will generally focus on assisting the client with overcoming specific difficulties and problems they are experiencing. The terms Counsellor and Psychotherapist are often used interchangeably.

Mental Health Nurse

A medical professional who is a qualified nurse and specialises in the treatment of individuals experiencing psychological distress and/or difficulties in functioning. Mental Health Nurses will often have some training in psychotherapeutic intervention and use of supportive counselling techniques, as well as administering medication that has been prescribed by a psychiatrist.

Social Worker

Social workers possess an undergraduate (and sometimes a postgraduate) degree in social work and engage with individuals and families to enhance the individual and/or family’s social functioning and overall well-being.  Social workers are often highly generalist in their approach and will work to connect people with services and support to assist them in times of difficulty. 

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