Where Do You Turn?

    A Quick Guide to Finding the Right Mental Health Professional

    It can be confusing to know who to turn to for what when your student is struggling. Is there someone at the school?  Do you see someone in the community? If so, who? Below are some of the job titles and related degrees of the most common professionals who work with mental health issues in Colorado as well as some guidance about when to see whom.

    Counseling vs. therapy?

    Some would say the distinction is counseling is for short term, focused mental health work and therapy is more ongoing and makes more use of the relationship between client and professional.  However, even amongst professionals, these terms are typically used interchangeably and will be here as well.





    MA, LPC

    General counseling for conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, etc.

    Marriage and Family Therapist


    Therapy for couples and families

    Social Worker


    General counseling as well as advocacy for socially disadvantaged groups.



    Prescribe medication for mental health/psychiatric conditions.  May also do therapy but this varies and is something you should ask when making an appointment.

    Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner


    Prescribe medication for mental health/psychiatric conditions.  May also do therapy but this varies and is something you should ask when making an appointment.

    Substance Abuse Counselor

    BA, CAC

    MA. LAC

    Mostly bachelors level professionals with additional training in substance abuse treatment (CAC).


    PsyD, PhD

    Therapeutic and diagnostic services or testing for mental health conditions. 


    PsyD, PhD

    A psychologist who has received additional training in brain functioning/anatomy and can administer specialized evaluations.

    School Psychologist

    PsyD, Ph.D., MA, EdS

    School based psychological services. Primary duties include crisis response, support for students with disabilities and evaluations. Ongoing therapy is not typically a resource that can be provided.

    School Social Worker

    LSW, MSW

    School based social work services including advocacy and mental health time for students identified with disabilities.

    School Counselor


    Academic, career and social emotional guidance.  May have teaching licenses as well.

    Who oversees the professionals?

    Colorado Department of Education provides licensure for School Psychologists and School Counselors.

    The Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) licenses Psychologists, Social Workers, Counselors, and Marriage and Family Therapists. 

    The Colorado Board of Medical Examiners oversees psychiatrists.

    Types of Therapy/Counseling

    Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT is the most common and research based form of counseling.  This form of therapy targets irrational or distorted thoughts, which are supporting problematic behaviors or choices. 

    Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a form of CBT incorporating some aspects of mindfulness.

    Psychotherapy is a form of counseling typically more embedded with some Freudian principles and using the relationship with the therapist as the agent for change.

    EMDR and the Neurosequential model are forms of treatment for trauma.

    These are just a few; there are many variations of these therapies and many others

    Where do you start?

    For most adolescent concerns such as anxiety, depression, behaviors at school or family issues any of the general counseling professions is a good place to start, including counselors, social workers and psychologists.  In addition to therapy, these professionals can help you sort out if a specialist, testing or medication consults are necessary. The best place to start are provider lists in your insurance company, but you can also try:

    Questions to Ask and Homework Before You Make an Appointment

    What are your licensure and credentials?

    Check the DORA website: https://dpo.colorado.gov/Psychology

    What is your experience with adolescents?

    Do you take insurance?  Do you have a sliding scale?

    What can you do? And what are the limits of what you can do?

    What is your theoretical orientation?

    What is your typical length of treatment?

    Do you offer teletherapy?


    Trevor Project

    Resources for LGBTQ students

    The Trevor Project | For Young LGBTQ Lives


    Students in grades 6-12 will be able to meet with a licensed therapist for FREE through our new telehealth partnership with Hazel Health.


    Text or call 988

    If anyone in the United States is experiencing a suicidal crisis or emotional distress, they should call 988: 988Lifeline.org. 

    Text or call 988

    988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline | Federal Communications Commission (fcc.gov)

    Colorado Crisis Services

    Colorado Crisis Services is the statewide behavioral health crisis response system offering residents mental health, substance use or emotional crisis help, information and referrals. Its mission is to strengthen Colorado’s mental health system by providing Coloradans with greater access to crisis services wherever they are at 24/7/365 regardless of ability to pay.



    Text “TALK” to 38255 

    Frequently Asked Questions | Colorado Crisis Services

    The Blue Bench

    At The Blue Bench, our mission is to eliminate sexual assault and diminish the impact it has on individuals, their loved ones and our community through comprehensive issue advocacy, prevention and care.

    I Matter Colorado

    The I Matter program can connect you with a therapist for up to 6 free virtual counseling sessions (some in-person appointments available, too) that are completely confidential. Talking with someone can make you feel better.

    I Matter (imattercolorado.org)

    Safe 2 Tell

    Anonymously report anything that concerns or threatens you, your friends, your family, or your community. We take your reports any time, any day.

    Home - Safe2Tell

    1-877-542-SAFE (7233)

    Or mobile app

    Judi’s House

    Grief support children who have had a death in the family


    One Chance to Grow Up

    Information for parents on teen drug use


    The Sammy Project

    Individual stories aimed at destigmatizing mental illness.