The first step in treating depression is recognizing that you are depressed. The second step is seeking help. These two steps may in fact be the hardest part of the entire treatment process. Once you seek help from a qualified health care provider, you will find that there are numerous treatment options to help you get back on track.

Early recognition and treatment will offer you the greatest chance of recovery, and the earlier you seek help the greater the chance that recurrences can be prevented.

Where to go for help

Once you decide to seek medical help, start with your primary doctor. He or she can evaluate you to make sure that medicines or another illness are not the source of your symptoms.

Your doctor may prescribe treatment or may refer you to a mental health care professional who can perform a thorough assessment so that effective treatment can be recommended.

Which health care providers treat depression?

Health care providers in many different environments and specialties are trained to identify the presence of depression. The following are general health care providers who are qualified to treat depression:


Doctors are primarily skilled in medical health care but do have some training in treating mental or psychiatric problems. Physicians recommend specialized care for patients with more than mild symptoms of depression.

Physician assistants

These medical health care givers are trained to identify symptoms of depression in patients and have some training in treating mental or psychiatric disorders under the supervision of a physician.

Nurse practitioners

These health care givers are registered nurses (RNs) with added nursing training and some training in treating mental or psychiatric problems.


These are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental or psychiatric illnesses. Psychiatrists are licensed to prescribe drugs as part of their treatment regimen and also are trained in psychotherapy, a form of "talking" therapy.


These are doctoral degree (PhD or PsyD) experts in psychology, and are trained in counseling, psychotherapy and psychological testing. Psychologists are not licensed to prescribe medicines to treat mental illnesses.

Social workers

Social workers provide a variety of services in medical and social service settings. Some, who are Licensed Independent Social Workers (LISW), have specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of depression.

Psychiatric nurse specialists

These are registered nurses (RN) who are educated in psychiatric nursing and specialize in treating mental or psychiatric illnesses.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on:10/9/2014...#11353