What Kind Of Doctor Should I See For Anxiety And Depression?

Reviewed by Alicia Ortega

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what kind of doctor should i see for anxiety and depression
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Photo: Shutterstock

Family practice doctors can screen for medical conditions such as high cholesterol or low iron levels. We see them when we are sick and we often go for regular checkups. However, your primary care doctor might not be the best choice if you are struggling with a mental health condition, substance use disorder, or panic attacks, as they have limited training in these realms.

If you or your family members need psychological treatment for mental disorders, it is important to find a provider who has special training and experience in these areas. Finding a provider who can provide talk therapy, diagnose mental illnesses, and prescribe medication, if needed, is the best way to overcome mental health challenges.

What Is The Best Kind Of Mental Health Doctor For Depression And Anxiety?

The best kind of mental health doctor for depression and anxiety is a specially trained mental health provider. While medical doctors can prescribe medication for problems like major depression or bipolar disorder, someone like a clinical psychologist or licensed therapist is a better choice for people who need help with mental illness.

What Kind Of Mental Health Doctor Should I See For Anxiety & Depression?

If you suffer from anxiety or depression, it would be more helpful for you to see a healthcare provider who can better serve your mental health needs than a general practitioner. Specialized mental health care providers can offer psychotherapy or prescribe psychiatric medications, both effective ways of treating mental health issues. Types of mental health care providers include:

  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers.
  • Licensed Therapists.
  • Psychologists.
  • Psychiatrists.

If you are in an immediate crisis,[1] call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room for treatment. They can help you with your urgent problems and connect you to long-term follow-up care.

Why A Mental Health Professional Is Best

Focused Care

A therapist or psychologist can take the time with you to work through breathing exercises for anxiety or allow you to cry without saying anything. Your psychiatrist will devote your entire appointment time to how you are tolerating your medication and if it needs adjusting based on your symptoms.

These professionals’ entire focus is your emotional well-being, and they usually have much more time to work on your mental health issues than a primary care doctor would.


Mental health professionals’ entire career is focused on helping people with their mental health conditions. While medical doctors like your primary care provider learn about mental health in school, it is not their primary focus. They may be able to connect you to resources or medication, but do not have the scope or time to provide meaningful insights into your mental and emotional health. 


Healthcare providers who focus on psychiatric care are better able to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. They will be more familiar with the nuances that certain mental health conditions can take and, in many cases, provide more accurate diagnoses than a PCP who is focused on physical symptoms alone.

Since mental health is their only focus, they are better able to diagnose and create a treatment plan than someone who treats both physical and emotional problems. 

Online Options

There are many fantastic online options for therapy available to choose from. TalkSpace reviews show that many people have greatly benefited from online therapy. People with severe depression often have trouble leaving their homes and may even struggle to get out of bed.

Instead of having to commute to a clinic, sit in a waiting room, and speak to a therapist in their office, online therapy provides people with the option to talk to a professional from the comfort of their own homes.

Differences Among Doctors And Therapists

what kind of doctor should i see for anxiety and depression
Many types of doctors receive education about mental health disorders. Photo: Shutterstock

Family Physician

Many people with depressive symptoms or anxiety disorders seek help from their family physician. Unfortunately, your medical doctor may not have enough time[2] to effectively treat your mental and emotional concerns, prioritizing your physical needs instead. And, while primary care providers do broadly learn about psychiatric conditions and mental health issues during medical school, it is not their primary focus.


A psychiatrist is a medical doctor specially trained in the treatment of mental illness. They can diagnose, recommend treatment, and prescribe medication. Psychiatrists have a broad scope of practice and have to complete a doctorate degree in medicine. They are significantly qualified to handle severe mental health disorders that respond to medication.

A psychiatrist may prescribe many different medications to help you, including antidepressants, anti anxiety medication, or beta blockers.

Most psychiatrists do not provide long-form, nor long-term talk therapy with their patients. Most meetings[3] are less than 30 minutes, with a focus on how the medication is interacting with the patient and their everyday life.


Psychologists primarily study mental health disorders. However, they can act as a mental health provider and may be able to prescribe medications[4] in some states. In New Mexico, Louisiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Idaho, psychologists can prescribe medications if they have completed a special training course.

Psychologists frequently work in research institutions and are able to use specialized assessments to diagnose conditions such as autism and learning disabilities. Many psychologists also elect to see patients and provide psychotherapy.[5] They obtain a doctoral degree through either a PhD or a PsyD.


A licensed therapist has earned at least a master’s degree in the treatment of mental health disorders and can provide different types of therapy. Therapists often specialize in specific therapeutic approaches, including psychodynamic therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, group therapy, client-centered therapy, gestalt therapy, and eye movement and reprocessing therapy (EMDR).

Some therapists focus only on special populations, such as couples therapists, play therapists, and sex therapists. Whatever your need, there is likely a therapist who specializes in it.

A therapist with a master’s degree cannot prescribe medication, but they may be able to help you navigate how to manage your symptoms with introspection, talk therapy, and self-care suggestions, including exercise, mindfulness techniques, or CBD oil for anxiety.

Be Willing To Try A Few Healthcare Providers

The success rate of therapy is closely related[6] to the relationship between the therapist and the client. If you don’t feel a connection with the first therapist you meet, that is okay, and should be discussed with them. If they’re not the right fit, you may need to talk to a few therapists before finding your best clinical match.

Be Honest

Therapy sessions are less effective if you are dishonest with your healthcare provider. Most symptoms of mental disorders exist within the mind and remain unknown unless spoken about or manifested into physical symptoms.

You must speak about these issues to help inform your mental health care provider on the best way to treat you. If you are in talk therapy, seeking assistance for depression and anxiety symptoms, being honest about your thoughts and feelings can help you get the most effective treatment.

Have Your List Of Medications

If you are seeing a new healthcare provider, make sure you bring a list of your current prescription medications with you. That way, your provider can make sure they don’t prescribe a depression or anti-anxiety medication that will negatively interact with other medications you are currently taking.

If you are nervous about trying medication, you may want to start with supplements or CBD oil. CBDfx reviews show that many people are able to manage their anxiety with the help of non-prescription CBD.

Research Your Family History 

Some problems like depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder can run in families.[7] If you have a family member who shares similar symptoms with you or has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you should let your provider know, as this may help them make a more accurate diagnosis.

Write Down Things That Have Helped In The Past

If, for example, you have tried yoga for depression and found that it was helpful, let your provider know. This can help them create a treatment plan that will work well for you.

Preparing For Your Visit

Your first visit for anxiety or depression can be intimidating. Doing a few things to prepare can make the whole process easier.


If you struggle with depression or an anxiety disorder, you should see a specially trained mental health professional. A mental health provider might be a therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist. These providers can provide counseling services or help you manage medications for your mental health issues.

When you start treatment, prepare for your appointment by being honest about your symptoms, providing a list of past and current medications, and being open and willing to try new therapies. Try your best to follow your treatment plan, join a support group, and maintain lifestyle changes as recommended by your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can my general practitioner help me with depression and anxiety?

A general practitioner can help you with depression and anxiety, but they are usually more focused on treating medical conditions. The best choice for psychiatric care is a therapist, psychologist, or other specialized mental health practitioner.

Are therapists and psychiatrists covered by insurance?

You will have to contact an insurance agent from your insurance company to find out whether or not psychiatric care is covered. Many insurance companies require a referral from a primary care physician to be seen by a specialist.

+ 7 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2022). Help for Mental Illnesses. [online] Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help#:~:text=endorsement%20by%20NIMH.-,Get%20Immediate%20Help%20in%20a%20Crisis,pain%20infographic%20to%20see%20how%20you%20can%20help%20those%20in%20distress.,-Find%20a%20Health.
  2. Lusine Poghosyan, Norful, A.A., Ghaffari, A., George, M., Chhabra, S. and Olfson, M. (2019). Mental health delivery in primary care: The perspectives of primary care providers. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, [online] 33(5), pp.63–67. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apnu.2019.08.001.
  3. American Journal of Psychiatry. (2016). Trends in Outpatient Psychotherapy Provision by U.S. Psychiatrists: 1996–2016. [online] Available at: https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2021.21040338.
  4. Apa.org. (2023). APA PsycNet. [online] Available at: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2022-58802-001.
  5. do, W. (2019). What do practicing psychologists do? [online] https://www.apa.org. Available at: https://www.apa.org/topics/psychotherapy/about-psychologists.
  6. ACM Conferences. (2022). Toward Causal Understanding of Therapist-Client Relationships: A Study of Language Modality and Social Entrainment | Proceedings of the 2022 International Conference on Multimodal Interaction. [online] Available at: https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3536221.3556616.
  7. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2021). Gene Readouts Contribute To Distinctness of Mental Disorders. [online] Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2021/gene-readouts-contribute-to-distinctness-of-mental-disorders#:~:text=%E2%80%9CMajor%20mental%20disorders%2C%20such%20as%20schizophrenia%2C%20bipolar%20disorder%2C%20and%20major%20depressive%20disorder%2C%20share%20common%20genetic%20roots%2C%20but%20each%20disorder%20presents%20differently%20in%20each%20individual.


Jessica is a registered nurse with a masters degree in research and education. She loves to help people understand how to take charge of their health. She has cared for patients in all stages of life including newborn babies through patients at the end of their life. Jessica currently works in the cardiothoracic ICU managing patients on ECMO. She is also part of a medical transport team and is a new nurse and patient educator. She loves helping people reach their full potential.


Alicia is an experienced writer, editor, and former marriage and family therapist. During her time as a clinician, Alicia worked with at-risk youth and families in the Greater Cleveland and Atlanta areas. She received special training under the OWEP intiative to help families struggling with opioid abuse. Alicia's clinical and professional style include using authenicity and emotional vulnerability to promote impactful and lasting change. In her current work, Alicia continues to use her clinical training to create relevant, people-focused content that helps brands connect to their audiences.

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