What kinds of training and experience do different mental health providers have?

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists – Medical doctors (MD or DO) who have training and experience focused on assessing and treating children and adolescents with mental health problems.

General Psychiatrists – Medical doctors (MD or DO) who have training and experience focused on assessing and treating adults with mental health problems. Sometimes general psychiatrists also work with children and adolescents.

Primary Care Physicians – Medical doctors (MD or DO) who have training and experience in general medicine; for example, family doctors and pediatricians. Primary care physicians also sometimes assess and treat adults and children with mental health problems. A primary care physician might also want to refer a patient to a psychiatrist.

Nurse Practitioners/Advanced Practice Nurses – Individuals with a nursing degree and have gone through additional training to provide some types of medical care. In Michigan, nurse practitioners provide care, treatment and education about health and mental health problems by working with a supervising physician. Nurse practitioners may provide services in primary care or in some mental health care settings.

Physician Assistants – Individuals who have gone through specific training in medical care. In Michigan, physician assistants provide treatment of health and mental health problems by working with a supervising physician. Physician’s assistants work in both primary care and mental health settings.

Psychologists – Psychologists can have a master’s degree (limited licensed psychologist - LLP) or doctoral degree (licensed psychologist - LP) and provide assessment, diagnosis and treatment. Their primary focus is mental health and/or learning problems.  In Michigan, psychologists may not prescribe psychotropic medication. Psychologists sometimes provide specialized assessments (see psychological and neuropsychological assessments).

Case Managers – Case managers have (at least) a bachelor’s degree and training/experience in mental health systems and child/family engagement

Outpatient Therapists – Outpatient therapists have at least a master’s degree (for example a Masters of Social Work, or MSW) and training/experience in mental health assessment, diagnosis and treatment. They may have training and/or certification in specific types of therapy, for example Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy or Structural Family Therapy. Experience and certification is one way to decide whether a specific therapist will be good fit for the child and family.

Home-Based Workers – Home-Based workers can have a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree depending on what kind of work they will be doing with the child and family. They can have training and/or certification in specific types of therapy.

Wraparound Facilitators – Wraparound facilitators may have a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or no advance degree if they have enough experience. They must have approved training in the Wraparound model.

Parent Support Partners – No degree is required to become a parent support partner, but they must have lived experience as a parent of a child involved in the mental health care system and hired by the Community Mental Health system or by a contract provider. Parent support partners must complete approved training.

Youth Peer Support – No degree is required to be a youth peer support, but a youth peer support must have lived experience of receiving mental health services as a youth and must complete approved training.  

Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) – Board certified behavior analysts have at least a master’s degree and have completed a specific set of courses and exams as set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. BCBAs provide comprehensive behavioral assessments using Applied Behavior Analysis and put together a plan of care for children or adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. They supervise the work of Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT), and Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBA) who work directly with the child and family on the treatment goals.

Occupational Therapists (OT) – Occupational therapists have gone through an accredited OT program and have a master’s degree. They are required to pass a state licensure examination.