Need support now? Help is available. Call, text, or chat 988outbound call

Who Treats Schizophrenia?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: August 2023

Schizophrenia is a complex mental health condition. It can impact a person’s life in many ways. Treating schizophrenia requires a team of healthcare experts, each with their own role to play. The team may include a primary care doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, social worker, pharmacist, and/or others.1

Primary care doctors

A primary care doctor practices general medicine. Their training is usually in family medicine or internal medicine. Primary care doctors have a medical degree (MD or DO). They can diagnose and treat many common health issues. Nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) also have advanced degrees and can work in general medicine.2

Primary care doctors may be the first to assess schizophrenia symptoms. They can order blood tests and images of the body. These tools help them look for possible medical causes of symptoms. If no obvious causes are found, they can refer a person to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.2

Primary care doctors also help manage general health issues that come along with schizophrenia to help improve overall well-being.2

Psychiatrists

A psychiatrist is a doctor who specializes in mental health. They can diagnose and treat mental health conditions, including prescribing medicines. They also provide counseling, or therapy (psychotherapy). Psychiatrists have a medical degree (MD or DO) and specialized training in the brain and mental health.3,4

Psychiatrists often lead the healthcare team for people with schizophrenia. Other mental health experts, pharmacists, nutrition specialists, and more may work with the psychiatrist.1

Psychologists

Like psychiatrists, psychologists can provide psychotherapy. One type of therapy a psychologist may provide to people with schizophrenia is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). They have a doctorate degree, usually a PhD, PsyD, or EdD. But they do not have a medical degree, so they cannot prescribe medicines.3,4

Psychologists can diagnose many mental health conditions. They often work closely with psychiatrists and other members of the care team.3,4

Mental health nurses and psychiatric nurse practitioners

Mental health nurses are trained in the care of people with mental health conditions. Psychiatric mental health nurses have a registered nursing degree (RN). They help with coordinating care, education (for both individuals and families), and rehabilitation.5

RNs can give treatments and monitor responses to them. But they cannot prescribe drugs. They also do not provide psychotherapy or diagnose mental health conditions.5

On the other hand, psychiatric nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). This requires an additional nursing degree that allows them to prescribe treatments and provide therapy. Some psychiatry practices have a mix of psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners.5,6

Trained mental health counselors or therapists

There are other professionals trained in therapy or counseling who can help people with schizophrenia. The type of therapy they perform depends on the certification they have. Examples of counseling certifications include Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC) and National Certified Counselor (NCC). There are national organizations dedicated to training these types of counselors.7

Counselors can practice in schools, private practices, group settings, and more. They can coordinate with your psychiatrist to make sure you are getting the therapy you need. But it is important to understand what credentials your therapist has and what type of therapy they provide. Some types of therapy are not recommended for people with schizophrenia.7,8

Social workers

Social workers, too, can provide counseling. The role of a social worker is to improve the quality of life for individuals and communities. They may work in schools, clinics, hospitals, prisons, the military, and other organizations.9

Social workers serve as advocates for people with schizophrenia. They connect people with helpful resources and provide support across all areas of their life. They may be able to help with unemployment, housing, substance abuse, and family conflict.9,10

Social workers typically hold graduate degrees. The most common graduate degrees held by social workers are master of social work (MSW) and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).9,10

Case managers

Case managers serve an important role in coordinating care. Like social workers, case managers can connect people to helpful resources. Areas they focus on include insurance, employment, transportation, and food. Unlike social workers, case managers do not provide therapy. They serve as a point of contact to direct and ensure access for people to needed services.11,12

Case managers help with coordinating follow-up health appointments, too. Coordination is especially important for people with complex care needs. Case managers also aid in communication between members of a healthcare team. Many hospital systems and clinics have case managers who know about different resources in the area.11,12

Pharmacists

Pharmacists specialize in prescription drugs. They review and fill prescriptions. Pharmacists have a doctorate degree in pharmacy called a PharmD. They go through an extensive credentialing process and are trained in the way different drugs work.13

Pharmacists are knowledgeable about different drug doses and what drugs interact with each other. So, they can teach you how to take your drugs. And they can give vaccinations.13

Your pharmacist may review your overall treatment plan and talk to your doctor about any concerns. This team member is especially helpful for people with multiple health issues and taking several drugs at once.13

Nutrition experts

Two of the most common nutrition experts are registered dietitians (RDs, or RDNs) and nutritionists. These experts help people make healthy eating plans that lead to improved overall health.14,15

Nutrition experts can also help people manage drug side effects. Some drugs used to treat schizophrenia affect the way the body processes fats and sugars. This can lead to a condition called metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome leads to weight gain and increases a person’s risk of diabetes or heart problems.14,15

There are several types of certifications nutritionists and dieticians may receive. Generally, dietitians must have certain credentials that nutritionists do not. If you are interested in adding a nutrition expert to your team, ask them what their certifications are. This affects what advice they are able to provide.14

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.