Which behavioral health professional is right for you?

If you’re looking for a behavioral health (BH) (mental health and substance use disorder) professional, consider starting with your primary care provider (PCP). He or she can suggest the type of BH professional you should call.

Behavioral health providers can be located in health centers or outpatient mental health centers, or they may have their own private practice office. Members can use our doctor search tool to find clinics in the “places by type” search or can look for individual providers in the “doctors by name” or “doctors by specialty”.

What questions should I ask when selecting a behavioral health provider?

Questions to ask

Here is some information about the types of providers that may be able to help you based on your needs:

Who can prescribe psychiatric medication for me?

Psychiatric nurse clinical specialists and psychiatrists are able to prescribe psychiatric medication. Some PCPs and nurse practitioners (NPs) can prescribe basic psychiatric medications. PCPs and NPs may also be able to prescribe psychiatric medication until you are able to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist or psychiatric clinical nurse specialist.

  • Psychiatric Nurse Mental Health Clinical Specialists (RNCSs) - RNCSs are registered nurses with additional special education in psychiatric care. These advanced practice nurses may offer behavioral health care, which includes evaluation, diagnosis, consultation and counseling, and prescribing medications.
  • Psychiatrists (M.D.s or D.O.s) - Psychiatric M.D.s or D.O.s are licensed medical doctors who specialize in psychiatry. They can prescribe medication and may also offer some form of psychotherapy. Psychiatrists may be board certified in psychiatry and/or child psychiatry.
Who can I see for counseling?

Licensed independent clinical social workers, psychologists, licensed mental health counselors, and licensed marriage and family therapists are all qualified to provide BH counseling. Licensed alcohol and drug counselors work specifically with persons who have substance use disorder. Board certified behavioral analysts work to develop behavioral programs for those with autism or other developmental disabilities.

  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Workers (LICSWs) - LICSWs have a master's degree in social work and additional supervised experiences. Social workers are trained in psychotherapy and social work techniques. Generally, social work professionals provide counseling directed toward specific goals to individuals, couples, families and groups.
  • Psychologists (Ph.D., Psy.D. or Ed.D.) - Psychologists may have a Ph.D., Psy.D. or Ed.D. degree, all of which are doctoral-level credentials. Psychologists have extensive training in research or clinical psychology, with additional supervised experiences after they receive their degree. Some psychologists may also have training in psychological and/or neuropsychological testing.
  • Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) - LMHCs hold a master's degree in the BH field. They may provide BH services to individuals, families or groups. LMHCs use therapeutic techniques to define goals and develop treatment plans aimed toward prevention, treatment, and resolution of behavioral and emotional issues.
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) - LMFTs hold either a master’s or doctoral-level degree and have special expertise in treating the family. They may work with individuals, couples and families in addressing family issues.
  • Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LADCs)  - LADCs are licensed to help people address substance use disorder problems. They deal with individuals who may be addicted to alcohol and/or prescription or illegal drugs. They may work individually with patients or in group settings. They may also offer counseling to the families of patients.
  • Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) - BCBAs hold a graduate-level degree and a certificate in behavior analysis. They have extensive training and experience in designing, developing, implementing and evaluating a wide range of applied behavior analysis programs for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities.