Therapists and some psychologists may be able to help a person with depression, often using psychotherapy. Knowing the difference between a therapist and a psychologist for depression can help ensure the best therapeutic outcomes.

A therapist is a person qualified and trained to provide different therapies. Within this label are varying degrees of education, expertise, and experience.

A psychologist is a mental health specialist with a doctorate in psychology, counseling, or education.

Both psychologists and therapists may use psychotherapy as part of a treatment plan for a person with depression. However, not all therapists can equally address the complexities of depression or provide the same level of evidence-based treatments.

This article looks at choosing between a therapist or a psychologist for depression, how each type can help, where to look for a therapist or psychologist, and other options available for help with depression.

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There are many different treatment approaches that can be helpful for people with depression, including medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modification.

Both therapists and psychologists can play a role in a person’s recovery. The best option for one person might not be suitable for someone else because depression can affect everyone differently and for different reasons.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), psychologists specialize in the science behind thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Therapists may also be called counselors or clinicians, and they can specialize in fields like job stress and addiction.

This distinction may impact which mental health professional is best for a person with depression. People experiencing depression related to grief, for example, may find the greatest benefit in a grief counselor.

However, someone living with treatment-resistant depression may require advanced, targeted therapies from a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Choosing between a therapist and a psychologist for depression is based on individual preference and the circumstances surrounding depression.

A therapist is a mental health professional trained to evaluate and treat mental health conditions. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI), they will have a minimum of a master’s degree in a mental health-related field, such as:

Therapists work with individuals, couples, or families to improve mental well-being and resolve psychological challenges.

As an inclusive term, “therapist” encompasses many mental health professionals. Their area of expertise and level of education may vary.

How a therapist helps people with depression

Some types of therapists can evaluate the symptoms of depression and administer therapeutic techniques to help a person.

Many specialize in specific fields, like couples therapy, grief therapy, or family therapy. This potential expertise could make a therapist the right choice for people with depression related to specific situations.

A psychologist is a mental health professional with a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, education, or counseling.

Following their education, most also complete 1 to 2 years of supervised work with patients and state licensing exams.

Psychologists may learn various forms of therapy, but not all psychologists choose that path. Some psychologists may become researchers or educators.

How a psychologist helps people with depression

Some psychologists may have advanced training in severe mental health disorders like depression.

According to NAMI, a psychologist may be trained to evaluate a person’s mental health using psychological tests and clinical interviews.

The American Psychiatric Association states that most psychologists will use psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, to help someone with depression or another mental disorder. This could be during individual therapy or group therapy.

As a complex mental health disorder, depression may benefit from a multidimensional treatment approach. A 2022 article suggests that using psychotherapy in combination with medication was more effective than using either treatment alone.

Medications combined with psychotherapy can help improve the symptoms of depression and restructure negative thought patterns.

Therapists and some psychologists will not be able to prescribe medications for depression. However, some states allow prescription privileges for psychologists if they complete additional training.

The following healthcare professionals may also be able to provide therapy and prescribe medication to help a person with depression:

  • psychiatrists
  • primary care physicians
  • family nurse practitioners
  • psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioners
  • psychiatric pharmacists

Primary care doctors can recommend a therapist based on an initial review of a person’s symptoms. If a person’s depression is severe, a primary doctor is also qualified to prescribe psychiatric medications as part of treatment.

There are also tools online to help people find a therapist or psychologist to help with depression. For access to all mental health services in an area, the SAMHSA National Helpline can offer direction and general information.

Other service location tools include:

According to the ADAA, cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of psychotherapy, can cost over $100 per hour. Prices may vary depending on a person’s location, the type of therapist they are seeing, and how much training the therapist has had.

Many major insurance carriers cover mental health services. In 2008, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) made it a legal requirement for health insurance companies to offer mental health coverage comparable to their physical health coverage.

However, that does not mean all insurances have mental health coverage. A person can check their policy benefits to see if their insurance covers mental health.

Even when coverage is not available, care is still possible. Many cities offer free mental health services or low cost options. Information on these can be obtained by calling the local government health department or the SAMHSA National Helpline.

Learn more free online therapy options for people with depression.

Psychologists and therapists can be key components in a depression treatment plan, but other mental health professionals and other forms of help are also available.

Support groups offer a way to talk about depression in a judgment-free setting. They can provide companionship and camaraderie and help people know they are not alone with depression. Groups are available in person, over the phone, or online.

Other mental health specialists, like peer specialists and life coaches, can help with everyday task management, employment support, and depression education. They can facilitate connections to depression outreach programs and services.

Loved ones can also be part of an invaluable support network.

Depression is a mental health condition featuring persistent feelings of despair, sadness, and low mood. These symptoms often accompany a lack of self-motivated activity and disinterest in things that were once pleasurable.

Therapists are mental health professionals from a variety of backgrounds and education. When deciding between a therapist or psychologist, the choice depends on an individual’s treatment needs and personal preferences.