Mental health care professionals

If you have a mental health problem, different people might be involved in your care - including medical professionals who prescribe medication and therapy. Support workers can do everyday tasks to help you stay in your home or live in the community.

Your doctor (GP)

When you see your GP, they can:

  • talk through problems
  • prescribe medication where necessary
  • refer you to a specialist counsellor or psychiatrist when necessary

Contact your GP immediately if you're concerned about your physical or mental health.

Community mental health teams

Community mental health teams can help people with a mental health illness live in the community with support. This could be on a day-to-day basis or support at times when a person may need it. These teams can include:

  • social workers
  • community mental health nurses
  • occupational therapists
  • psychiatrists
  • psychologists
  • mental health pharmacists
  • counsellors
  • community support workers, like home helps for example

Community mental health teams can take care of your health and social needs.

Key workers

If you have different elements to your care , for example you see a psychiatrist, counsellor, doctor and social worker, you may have a key worker.

The key worker is your contact. You can talk to them. They talk to all the professionals treating you.

Key workers are in the community mental health team. They will draw up a care plan with you. Your keyworker will give you a copy of your care plan.

Community mental health nurses

Community mental health nurses are registered nurses trained in mental health.  They can:

  • talk to you about ways to cope
  • give long-term support to you in the community
  • give some medication

Community mental health nurses can specialise in working with older people, children or people with drug or alcohol problems.

Community mental health pharmacists

A Community Mental Health Pharmacist can help improve how you use medicines to make sure they are being most effective. 

You can find more information about mental health conditions, treatments and medications on the Choice and Medication website.  


Counsellors provide a 'talking therapy' where they invite you to talk about your thoughts and feelings. The counsellor discusses ways of coping with you.

Counselling can also be provided by:

  • community mental health nurses
  • psychotherapists
  • psychologists
  • social workers
  • occupational therapists

There is a waiting list for counselling through the Health Service. Some voluntary organisations offer talking treatments. Ask your GP or community mental health team for information.  You can also arrange private treatment.

Health visitors

Health visitors are qualified nurses with specialist training working in the community. They help people with a mental illness to continue to live in their home.

Health visitors can:

  • help you stay healthy by talking to you about diet and exercise
  • be someone to talk to
  • offer practical advice about food, hygiene and day-to-day living
  • tell you about other services that may be useful to you, such as a local community group that you could go to


A psychiatrist deals with the physical aspect of mental health, for example drug therapy. Psychiatrists often work closely with psychologists and counsellors. They discuss your thoughts and feelings to work out coping strategies with you.


A psychologist does a clinical assessment. This  may lead to you being offered psychological therapy. Psychologists also give consultations, advice and supervision to other professionals involved in your treatment or care.

Social workers

Social workers can offer you advice on practical matters like accommodation and financial support, such as benefits.

Some social workers are specially trained in mental health and can offer talking therapies.

Approved social workers

Approved social workers have special training and can carry out some tasks under the Mental Health (NI) Order 1986, such as recommending a compulsory hospital stay.

Approved social workers also have a particular duty to look at alternatives to hospitalisation, for example by looking at the range of community care available that may allow the person with a mental illness to stay in their community.

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