There are several types of professionals trained to treat depression. Many people rely on a combination of these professionals to carry out their treatment.
Primary Care Physicians/General Practitioners
Primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants are trained to recognize and treat depression. Due to time constraints and other factors, your primary care provider may not be able to spend much time with you to discuss your depression.
When you schedule an appointment, make it clear that you want to talk to the doctor about your mood. While this can be difficult to admit over the phone, it’s important o be upfront about the problem so you can get help.
The largest percentage of antidepressant prescriptions originate in the primary care setting. If your doctor prescribes an antidepressant, make sure you understand the following:
- When to take it
- How long to take it
- What to do if you miss a dose
- What to expect from taking it
- What side effects can be expected
- When you can expect to start feeling relief from the depression
- What you should do if you don’t feel better
- What else, in addition to taking the antidepressant, should you be doing to help eliminate the depression
Psychiatrists are medical doctors just like cardiologists, primary care providers and oncologists. Historically, psychiatry was the subspecialty of medicine that provided counseling to individuals with depression. Over time, psychiatry has evolved to become more about medication management for depression than depression counseling.
If your psychiatrist doesn’t provide counseling, he or she should be able to offer referrals to counselors. If a psychiatrist prescribes you an antidepressant, you should be aware of the same issues about the medication as listed above.
Psychologists have a bachelor, masters, or a doctorate degree in psychology. They are trained in the screening and counseling of depression. The psychologists who provide counseling usually have a master’s degree or doctorate, and need to be licensed to practice counseling.
Psychologists cannot prescribe medications, but can refer you to a physician who can write a prescription, if necessary. It’s important for your psychologist to feel like a good fit for you. To learn more about a psychologist and he or she is a good match, ask these questions:
- What type of therapy do you provide? (e.g. Cognitive or Interpersonal Therapy)
- How effective is the type of therapy you offer?
- What is your experience in treating depression? How do you monitor your success in helping clients?
- How often will I need to see you? How many sessions, on average, do your patients see you for?
- How will you track my progress?
- Will I have “homework” or assignments outside of the counseling session?
- How soon can I expect to start feeling better?
- Will my insurance cover this? If not (or if you are uninsured), is there a discount for paying in cash?
Licensed Social Workers, Professional Counselors and Pastoral Counselors
There are a number of other professionals who provide counseling for depression. Most are trained at the master’s level and have been licensed by the state in which they work.
Just like psychologists, these individuals are generally not allowed to prescribe medications. But they should be trained to recognize if an antidepressant is advisable, and can refer you to a physician qualified to prescribe medications. As you would ask a psychologist about their practices, you should ask these professionals the same questions listed above.
Ready to meet with a professional about your depression? Call your health provider’s appointment line and set something up today.