Understanding which mental health professional is right for you

It can be really confronting trying to find the right person when it comes to your mental health treatment. There are so many different disciplines, qualifications, and roles under the ‘mental health’ umbrella. There are many things to consider when differentiating the various roles, including the levels of education, experience, continued professional development, supervision needs and whether they are regulated and/or licensed under a professional body/board. Let’s take a look at some of the most common roles and unpack what each can offer you.


A psychiatrist is a trained medical doctor, who has specialised in mental health treatment, particularly in the area of pharmaceuticals/medication. Psychiatrists can evaluate, diagnose, and treat mental health disorders and are regulated and accredited under the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).


A psychologist is an individual who specialises in the study of behaviour and the mind, including treatment of mental, emotional, and behavioural disorders. Psychologists can vary in education levels, training, and area of speciality (e.g. clinical, sports, forensic or organisational psychology). All Psychologists in Australia have to be accredited through AHPRA. (For more information on clinical psychologists in particular check out our blog: What to expect when seeing a clinical psychologist).

Counsellors and psychotherapists

Counsellors and psychotherapist are individuals who are trained in talk therapy, and can help with problem solving, stress, grief, self-esteem and relationships. Many counsellors have qualifications and training, but you don’t need any special qualifications or training to be a counsellor in Australia. It is important to check if your counsellor is registered with a professional body like the Australian Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists.

Mental health professionals

Mental health professionals can be individuals from a range of backgrounds including social work, nursing, psychology and counselling. A mental health professional can provide services for the purpose of improving an individual’s mental health or to treat mental health concerns. As the level of education and training can differ depending on the professional background it is important to ask about credentials. Like psychologists, social workers and nurses are regulated under professional bodies, this can include being an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker (AMHSW) or registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) respectively.

Life coach

A life coach is a professional who provides guidance, advice, and support to individuals in their personal development and professional life. They can help build motivation and achieve individual goals. Although there are courses to become a ‘certified life coach,’ general coaching is not regulated in Australia, so no qualifications or certificates are necessary.

More information

If you  would like to learn more about which mental health support service would work for you, or would like to book an appointment with Jane Flanagan, then call 6143 4499 or email via our contact page

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