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What Kind of Professionals Treat Panic Disorder?

The Usual Qualifications of Professionals That Treat Panic Disorder

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Updated June 17, 2009

The following is a summary of the types of professionals that usually treat panic disorder:

Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists are physicians who specialize in treating psychiatric conditions. Training for these professionals includes a residency lasing several years that focuses on the treatment of emotional disorders. A psychiatrist will have the acronym, “MD” or “DO” after his or her name. MD refers to a Doctor of Medicine and DO refers to a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. Both must complete rigorous studies, pass comparable state licensing examinations and are able to perform the same procedures within their specialty. Psychiatrists are able to prescribe medicine and provide a variety of psychological therapies to treat panic disorder.

Psychologists

Psychologists are professionals who can provide individual, family and group therapy. They are also trained to do a variety of psychological testing. A psychologist that has a doctorate in his or her specialty will have the acronym, PhD or PsyD after his or her name. Although psychologists may use the term “doctor” before their name, they are usually unable to prescribe medicine. Only two states, Louisiana and New Mexico, currently have legislation that allows clinical psychologists to prescribe medications.

Licensed Counselors, Therapists and Social Workers

All states except California will allow licensure of professionals who have at least a master’s degree in a mental health related field. Master’s level professionals are trained to treat a variety of psychological illnesses using individual, family and group therapies. Licensure generally allows these professionals to accept insurance reimbursement.

The terms used to designate licensure of master’s level professionals vary by state. Commonly, these providers are designated by one of the following:

  • Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC)
  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
  • Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor (LPMHC)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)

Non-Licensed Professionals

Non-licensed professionals who treat panic disorder will usually have at least a master’s degree. Some of these providers may be certified, registered or working under the supervision of a licensed professional. Others may be fulfilling post-graduate experience under a licensed professional’s supervision in order to become qualified for state licensure. Your medical insurance company will probably not pay for non-licensed professionals.

Important Considerations

While many providers have impressive titles and qualifications, it is important that you choose one who is experienced in treating anxiety disorders and with whom you feel comfortable. It may be helpful to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I trust my doctor or therapist?
  2. Do I believe my doctor or therapist is knowledgeable about panic disorder?
  3. Do I feel like I’m being heard and understood?
  4. Do I feel I can easily open up and talk to my doctor or therapist?
  5. Will I be able to get a hold of my treating provider if I have an after-hours emergency?

You may not “click” with your first choice, or even your second or third. But, don’t give up. It’s not uncommon to see several providers before you find one that you really feel comfortable with.

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