Gamer’s Guide: Finding Your Mental Health Match

Games can be therapeutic, relieve our daily stress, and can even give us a sense of accomplishment. But what happens when gaming just doesn’t hit the same, or when you notice that you’re leaving your gaming sessions less fulfilled than when you started? Sometimes we get hardstuck in our games (and life) and having an IRL support player to give you that mental buff can be super effective. Finding a mental health professional that fits you may be confusing. My goal is to demystify all the letters and titles so you can choose a mental health professional that fits your needs. 

Before you start your mental health journey, I recommend reviewing your current health insurance plan. Typically, health insurance plans include mental health services in their premium. 

Better Mental Health in Gaming: What’s the Difference Between a Psychologist & Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists and psychologists, aka doctors of psychiatry and psychology, are providers who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of psychological disorders. The major difference is that psychiatrists are medical doctors who utilize a primarily medical model and can prescribe psychotropic medications where appropriate, while psychologists utilize various psychotherapeutic models and therapy techniques in their treatments. Research shows working with both a psychiatrist to manage the effects of the drugs and a psychologist for therapy is a very effective form of treatment. 

Are There Other Doctors in the Mental Health Field?

PhDs and PsyDs are two different kinds of doctors of psychology. They use psychological measures and therapy techniques to help their clients. The major difference between PhDs and PsyDs is that PhDs typically specialize in research and teaching, while PsyDs are clinicians who focus on providing direct therapy and treatment. Although PhDs are trained in psychotherapy and PsyDs may conduct research, the roots of PhDs training is in research while PsyD training is grounded in clinical work and therapy.

What Other Options Are There?

There are many Masters level mental health professionals, including Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, and Clinical Social Workers. The main focus of MA level practitioners is providing therapy, counseling, and support services to individuals, groups, and systems. The major difference between these degrees are the emphasis of their training and application of knowledge.

Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC), and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) are all trained to diagnose, utilize therapeutic techniques, and treat mental health diagnoses. However, there are slight differences in how they understand their clients, what techniques they use, and what type of support they provide. 

For example, MFTs use a more interpersonal approach and focus on how people  influence and are influenced by their relationships. MFTs can also support their clients in other relationships they maintain in their life, like how they relate to money, career, or games. LPCCs focus on the individual, their challenges, and their personal development. Lastly, LCSWs focus on finding government resources and community programs to help support their client’s mental health concerns.

How Do I Pick the Best Mental Health Professional for Me?

The differences of these different mental health practitioners comes down to their level of education, areas of expertise, and tools they use. 

To keep it simple, if part of the treatment you’re looking for may involve prescription medications, a psychiatrist would be your best bet. On the other hand, if you don’t want medication and want to try talk therapy a PsyD, PhD, MFT, LPCC, or LCSW may be a better choice. 

Between PhDs and PsyDs, I would personally work with PsyDs (note my training and bias!) as we were specifically trained to diagnose, treat, and prevent psychological disorders. 

While PsyD’s and PhDs in psychology have the most training and expertise in addressing the psychological concerns of their clients, MA level clinicians may also be very effective for you. Just remember as there are various MA level therapists and clinicians with similar training, so be mindful of their background, areas of emphasis, and scope of practice when choosing one.


Looking to start boosting your mental skills right now? Set up a consultation with Dr. Terao, aka PsychSensei, to see if he can help you think, play, and slay better.

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