The largest mental health therapy specialties
Mental health is vitally important to our well-being. According to the CDC, one in five adults in the U.S. experience at least one mental health condition every year. And it’s estimated that nearly 10 million people a year experience a mental illness or condition that interferes with or impacts major life activities.
This area of healthcare is undergoing significant change. As the stigma surrounding mental health care gradually diminishes and technology makes getting help more accessible, demand for more mental health specialists will grow.
Below, we rank the 10 largest mental health therapy specialties.
Types of mental health professionals
|Rank||Specialty type||# of active specialists||Explore dataset|
|1||Licensed Clinical Social Worker||88973||Explore|
Looking at the top 10 types of mental health professionals that we track using PhysicianView, we can see that licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) is the largest specialty within the mental health space. It has 88,973 active specialists. Other ranking specialties include clinical psychology and psychiatry, with 60,790 and 47,083 active specialists, respectively, for . There is a combined total of 199,931 active mental health professionals.
Licensed clinical social work likely tops the list because it is potentially more accessible than other types of professions on our list. Depending on the state, earning a master’s degree in social work could take between 1-3 years. Becoming a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist could possibly take between 8-13 years.
The demand for social workers is also on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment is “projected to grow 12% from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.”
Fig 2. Data is from the PhysicianView product. Data is accurate as of May 2022.
By exploring the pie chart, we can see that there are more LCSWs who identify as female (73,498) than male (15,472). Psychiatry has more male (25,704) professionals than females (21,378).
The pie chart shows the percentage of how many active mental health specialists identify as female or male for a given specialty. You can use the arrow keys or the center dropdown menu to navigate between each specialty.
Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist: what’s the difference?
In casual conversation, people often use “psychiatry” and “psychology” interchangeably. This is an easy mistake to make, as there are similarities between the two specialties.
Both psychologists and psychiatrists are trained to identify mental issues and disorders and can treat these conditions using talking therapies. Under the surface, however, the specialties have different educational requirements, different credentials and different treatment approaches.
In general, it can be easy to differentiate the two specialties by remembering that psychiatrists are medical doctors while psychologists are not. Psychologists also cannot prescribe medication to treat mental health conditions.
If you’re interested in learning more about the critical importance of mental health, listen to episode seven of our podcast, Definitively Speaking.
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