Can a Nurse Practitioner Diagnose Depression?

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Building your "village" for tackling mental health challenges is often the first step to breaking through to a better place. You may be wondering if a nurse practitioner can play a role if this is the most accessible option for you. Yes, psychiatric nurse practitioners can play key roles in diagnosing specific mental health issues! However, your journey won't necessarily end there.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners are nurse practitioners who specialize in diagnosing and treating mental illness. So, they can diagnose depression, as well as a range of other psychiatric illnesses.

Facts about nurse practitioners 

Here are some facts that you should know about psychiatric nurse practitioners:

  • They can specialize in a wide variety of things from substance abuse to geriatric mental health. 
  • They are advanced practice registered nurses, which means that they have additional training way beyond what a regular registered nurse RN has. 
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioners may work in a variety of settings, from community mental health clinics to hospital emergency rooms. 

What the difference is between a psychiatrist and a psychiatric nurse practitioner?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has completed medical school followed by advanced training in psychiatry.

A psychiatric nurse practitioner, on the other hand, typically has a master's degree in nursing. Similar to a psychiatrist, they have completed advanced training in psychiatry and can also diagnose and treat mental illness, as well as prescribe medications for depression and other mental illnesses.

What can you expect when working with a psychiatric nurse practitioner? 

"Several studies found that care provided by PMHNPs is similar to that of psychiatrists, is of high quality, and leads to positive behavioral health outcomes," according to a 2018 analysis on the utilization of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners.

Most people who have the experience of working with a psychiatric nurse practitioner would say that the experience is identical to working with a psychiatrist. Your psychiatric nurse practitioner will be able to diagnose your mental health issue using standard evaluations and diagnostic testing. You will then move to a phase of therapy and counseling with regular appointments.

During your journey, your nurse practitioner will be monitoring treatment outcomes, assessing your overall emotional well-being, and making suggestions based on how your treatment plan is going. In addition, they can work with you to create a treatment plan that includes regular therapy appointments. If necessary, your nurse practitioner can also refer you to a specialist.

The bottom line

Your family nurse practitioner can be a good place to start if you believe that you suffer from depression or anxiety. However, only psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners are able to provide diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring for more complex psychiatric disorders. What's more, a primary care office cannot provide counseling and therapy services that are so critical for emotional healing, growth, and development.

How should people seeking support for mental health use this information?

Ideally, finding a team that offers a full range of psychiatric support services will allow you to get tailored help without the need to bounce around from referral to referral. Many people find that starting with an office that focuses specifically on mental health simply creates a smoother journey that they are more likely to stick with than going through a general care provider.



1. Utilization and Economic Contribution of Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners in Public Behavioral Health Services

2. About Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing

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