When a person needs help, knowing how to get the right kind of help is very important.

People often don’t know where to start, and might not even be sure exactly what they need when seeking mental health services.

There are several different types of mental health professionals, and it is important to understand what each one does so that you are able to identify a professional who will meet your service needs.

Research shows that the best results for most mental-health related issues involve a combination of counseling and psychiatric medication.

However, some people might opt for one or the other, depending on their needs.

Keep in mind that the higher the degree of the professional, the higher the average cost for services. A higher cost does not guarantee better services, though.

It is appropriate to ask the provider questions about their experience and specialties to ensure they are a good fit for your needs.

Here is a little more about what types of professionals are in the field and the services they typically provide.

Psychiatrist (M.D.): This is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication and has specialty training in the area of mental health.

Psychiatrists do not normally provide counseling services.

They do provide diagnostic assessments, medication management and additional services related to mental health hospital (inpatient) services.

One would seek services from a psychiatrist to determine if medication is needed or to prescribe and manage medication for mental health related symptoms.

Psychiatric Nurse (APRN): This is a registered nurse with expertise in the area of mental health. In some states, such as South Carolina, they can prescribe medication.

Some of these nurses might also perform counseling services.

Psychologist (Ph.D. or Psy.D.): This person has a doctoral degree and provides psychological testing services.

This might include IQ tests, mental health evaluations, ADHD assessments, and a variety of other testing services.

Many psychologists also perform counseling services.

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC): This is a person with a master’s degree specializing in counseling services.

These professionals offer a variety of counseling services depending on their area(s) of expertise.

Licensed Social Worker (LISW-CP, LISW-AP): This person has a master’s degree and may perform a variety of roles.

Some social workers have expertise in counseling while others might perform case management, regulatory and community resource roles.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT): This person has a master’s degree with specialty training in counseling for couples and family-related issues.

Alison Jedrick, MSW, LISW-CP, is an associate with Psychological & Counseling Associates of the Lowcountry, LLC in Bluffton.