Mental Health Provider Guide

Compiled by Dr. Beth Cholette

Below I describe some common types of mental health providers, including psychiatrists, psychologists (me!), clinical social workers, and others. This information is meant only as a general guideline to provide information about the various options available.


Psychiatrists are medical doctors (M.D.s) who have had four years of medical school plus at least three years of psychiatric residency; most are certified. They are the only type of mental health provider listed on this page who can prescribe psychotropic medications (American Psychiatric Association, 202-682-6800).  [Please note that medications may also be prescribed by psychiatric nurse practitioners (NPPs), physician assistants (PAs), or your general practitioner/primary care doctor as well.]

Clinical or Counseling Psychologists

Clinical or Counseling Psychologists hold a doctoral degree (Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.) and have completed a one-year supervised clinical internship plus at least one year of supervised postdoctoral training. They must be licensed by the state where they practice (American Psychological Association, 202-336-5700, or click here).

Clinical Social Workers

Clinical Social Workers (M.S.W., C.S.W., R.C.S.W., or A.C.S.W.) have a master's degree in social work plus supervised clinical experience and must meet state licensure requirements. In New York State, a Social Worker must have seven years of supervised post-Masters training in order to become licensed.  Social Workers may be particularly knowledgeable about community support services (National Association of Social Workers, 800-638-8799).

Professional Counselors

Professional Counselors hold at least a master's degree; field includes supervised internships. Licensing is required in 43 states but not in New York. However, in the 2000s, New York did begin offering a license for masters-level mental health counselors; this is known as a "LMHC," or licensed mental health counselor.  Counselors may also be certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors, a NCC certification (American Counseling Association, 703-823-9800, or visit the American Counseling Association website).

Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and Family Therapists have a master's or doctoral degree in marital and family therapy plus at least two years of supervised clinical experience. Licensing certification is required in 40 states but not in New York (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, 202-452-0109).

Psychiatric Nurses, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nurse Practitioners

Some nurses are certified in psychiatric and mental health nursing (R.N., C.N.S., N.P.P) or are licensed as a nurse practitioner (R.N., N.P.). Both of these types of nurses hold a master's degree and are licensed by the state in which they practice (American Nurses Association, 200-215-3727).

If you are a SUNY Geneseo Student seeking treatment, call Counseling Services at 585-245-5716.

If you are looking for treatment outside of Geneseo, here are some options:

  1. Ask your family doctor/primary care physician for recommendations.
  2. If there is a college nearby, call their counseling center and ask who they refer to in the local area.
  3. Solicit recommendations from family members and friends.Visit the American Psychological Association's psychologist locator page:
  4. Look in your local yellow pages under “Counselors - Personal,” “Counselors – Marriage and Family,” “Psychotherapists,” “Psychologists,” or "Physicians - Psychiatrists" (for medication).
  5. Visit New York State's Office of Mental Health web site to search for a mental health program in your community:

A Final Important Note: in most cases, insurance companies will pay for mental health treatment ONLY when provided by a board-certified psychiatrist, a licensed psychologist, a certified/licensed clinical social worker, or other licensed professional. Also, if you are interested in so-called online counseling or psychotherapy, you should consider the following cautions:

  • Confidentiality of on-line communications cannot be guaranteed;
  • On-line counseling is unlikely to be effective in addressing issues which are not fairly simple or are relational in nature;
  • The training and credentials of on-line counselors/therapists may not meet standards set for New York State licensed practitioners;
  • In the case of emergencies, on-line counselors/therapists may not be able to adequately help maintain your safety;
  • The costs for on-line services vary;
  • Sites, and the services they provide, may shut down with little or no advance notice.